A new statue honouring heroine of the Crimean War, Mary Seacole, is to be unveiled today in the garden of St Thomas’ Hospital in London
The unveiling of the bronze statue – the first in the UK dedicated to a named black woman – follows 12 years of fundraising by the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal.
“Mary Seacole is a symbol of nursing diversity throughout history”
More than £500,000 was raised through donations and last November the government announced that £240,000 of LIBOR banking fines would be donated to complete the necessary funding.
Over 300 guests will see the statue, which was created by sculptor Martin Jennings, unveiled by Baroness Floella Benjamin, deputy lieutenant of Greater London.
Among others, speeches will be made by Sir Hugh Taylor, chair of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, and Lord Soley, chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal.
Baroness Floella Benjamin
Other guests include NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and newly-appointed shadow health secretary Diane Abbott.
Lord Soley said: “After 12 years of campaigning, we are proud to finally grant Mary Seacole the acknowledgement she deserves for her selfless support of British soldiers and sailors.
“We are delighted to be unveiling the statue today at St Thomas’ Hospital and would like to thank everyone who has supported the appeal,” he said.
He added: “The statue will be a fantastic new landmark on London’s South Bank and a celebration of the UK’s diversity.”
Sir Hugh said: “This will be a fitting tribute to a woman who was a pioneer for the generations of nurses and other staff from black and minority ethnic backgrounds who have served the NHS so well over the years.
“Mary Seacole is a positive role model for the current generation of nurses and other healthcare professionals, speaking to the diversity of our local population, our patients and the staff who work here,” he said.
Bernell Bussue, the Royal College of Nursing’s London regional director, added: “The Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital is a fitting tribute to an important figure in nursing.
“Mary Seacole is a symbol of nursing diversity throughout history and an inspirational figure for nurses from all backgrounds today,” he said. “This monument overlooking the Thames means her memory will live on for generations to come.”
An exhibition about the life and times of Mary Seacole, and the creation of the statue, will be open to the public from 2-5pm on Thursday 30 June and from 9am-5pm on Friday 1 July.
The initiative has attracted recent attention in the national media, after some academics questioned the attention being given to Mary Seacole and her credentials as a nursing pioneer, when compared to Florence Nightingale.