In Search of Mary Seacole

The Making of a Cultural Icon

the remarkable story of a Jamaican nurse, healer, humanitarian and entrepreneur in the mid 19th century – the most famous black woman in the british empire

The end product of many years of extensive & exhaustive research, this book reveals the true story of Mary Seacole, unravelling numerous myths & misconceptions & detailing much new evidence about her extraordinary life

helen rappaport

The Search for Mary Seacole

The Making of a Cultural Icon

In Search of Mary Seacole is a superb and revealing biography that explores her remarkable achievements and unique status as an icon of the 19th century, but also corrects some of the myths that have grown around her life and career.

Having been raised in Jamaica and worked in Panama, Mary Seacole came to England in the 1850s and volunteered to help out during the Crimean War. When her services were turned down, she financed her own expedition to Balaclava, where she earned her reputation as a nurse and for her compassion. Popularly known as ‘Mother Seacole’, she was the most famous Black celebrity of her generation – an extraordinary achievement in Victorian Britain. She regularly mixed with illustrious royal and military patrons and they, along with grateful war veterans, helped her recover financially when she faced bankruptcy. However, after her death in 1881, she was largely forgotten for many years.

More recently, her profile has been revived and her reputation lionised, with a statue of her standing outside St Thomas’s Hospital in London and her portrait – rediscovered by the author – is now on display in the National Portrait Gallery. In Search of Mary Seacole is the fruit of almost twenty years of research by Helen Rappaport into her story. The book reveals the truth about Seacole’s personal life and her ‘rivalry’ with Florence Nightingale, along with much more besides. Often the reality proves to be even more remarkable and dramatic than the legend.

Listen to Helen’s talk for The National Archives:


Helen talks to David Olugosa for The One Show:

Click the image to watch the clip and find out more about Mary Seacole’s role in the Crimean War

Helen as talking head & consultant for the series The Real Angel of the Crimea about Mary Seacole

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Latest Articles and Media about Mary Seacole & Black Victorian History

Mary Seacole, Creole Doctress, Nurse and Healer

Mary Seacole, Creole Doctress, Nurse and Healer

In Crimea during 1854–5 Mary Seacole demonstrated that her home-grown Jamaican practice of hygiene, healthy food, natural remedies and kindness – had a lot more to offer than traditional medicine, making her nursing practice a far more modern, holistic one that people might have imagined.

You can find more videos, podcasts and other media on the topic of the Mary Seacole & Black Victorian History on Helen’s main page for this area of expertise HERE

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