NLM logo

ExhibitionPicturing Nursing as a Career: Florence Nightingale, the “Lady with the Lamp”

British social reformer Florence Nightingale famously took a group of nurses to the Crimean War front in 1854. Media coverage of her nightly visits to the wounded led to her becoming known as the “Lady with the Lamp.” After her return from the Crimean War, Nightingale established a fund to set up the first modern School of Nursing at St. Thomas’s Hospital in London; the School opened in 1860.

At this time, nursing was often undertaken by poor, uneducated women who knew little about disease or its causes. Nightingale established nursing as a vocation for educated middle-class women from respectable backgrounds.

  • White female nurse (Florence Nightingale) tending a wounded White male soldier on the battlefield.

    Promotional postcard commemorating Florence Nightingale shortly after her death, ca. 1910

    Produced by Reckitt and Sons Ltd., London and Hull

  • White female nurse (Florence Nightingale) tending to a White male soldier, surrounded by onlookers.
A nursing school classroom filled with a large group of White women, and two African American women.

    Postcard reproduction of The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari, early 20th century

    Created by Jerry Barrett (1814—1906)

    Produced by Scottish Branch of the British Red Cross

  • Bust of a White woman (Florence Nightingale). She is looking slightly to the left, unsmiling.

    Postcard reproduction of an illustration Florence Nightingale, early 20th century

    Created by William Edward Kilburn (1818—1891)