A fairly minor figure in the history of medicine, Mary Jane Seacole is a figurehead
to represent the fight for equal rights in the medical profession
- and perhaps something of a martyr
to this aim.
She learnt nursing from her mother, and ran a boarding house for invalid soldiers in Kingstown, Jamaica. Upon the outbreak of the Crimean War, she moved to England and volunteered for the Crimea. She was refused, possibly on racist grounds, and instead paid her own passage to Crimea. Once there, she set up a medical store to sell medicines to soldiers, and nursed them on the battlefield.
When she returned to England, she couldn't find work as a nurse, and she went bankrupt. She received some support due to press interest in her story, but not much.
She later wrote an autobiography.