100 Greatest Women On Coins Series: Florence Nightingale

It seems to be a pattern of the past, and also the current norm, that women succeed the most when bucking societal traditions and carving a path of most resistance. Women have spent a lifetime having their life already planned out for them from the time they are born. However, paths are meant to be taken differently for everyone, and that is especially true of our next entry in the 100 Greatest Women On Coins series. With help from author Ron Guth, we take a closer look at this top 20 pick in Whitman Publishing’s compilation.

#17 - Florence Nightingale

Born in May 1820 in Florence, Italy, Florence belonged to a wealthy family that moved back to England after her birth. She was homeschooled by her father and took particularly well to mathematics. As she grew older, her family had expectations that she would marry and have children. However, Florence had other plans and answered a call to service that would take form through nursing.

She persisted through her family’s objections and ended up travelling with a team of nurses to the British hospital at Scutari in 1854 during the Crimean War. Right away she realized that the terrible conditions of the hospital were to be corrected as she helped improve sanitation and hygiene in addition to preparing food and taking care of the rodent problem. Her work would land her recognition at home through poems, broadsheets (newspaper), and songs as the death rate seemingly declined in the military hospitals.

Other than her physical work, Florence was also responsible for publishing nearly 150 letters, articles, books, and reports on a number of subjects between 1851 and 1905. Her book “Notes on Nursing” from 1859 would end up becoming a textbook for nursing theory.

Florence has appeared on a number of coins throughout history, including a 2004 issue from the country of Alderney, a Channel Island in the Bailiwick of Guernsey in the United Kingdom. It was a gold 5-pound coin that depicted Florence and the nickname she received while making late-night rounds in hospitals, “Lady With the Lamp.”

According to Guth, collecting coins with Florence Nightingale is easy and reasonably priced.