Illustration of Florence Nightingale helping a sick manToday marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Florence Nightingale. We all know this renowned nurse as a paradigm of humanity but you may not know that she directly influenced the setting up of the British Red Cross in 1870.

She encouraged the setting up of the organisation, gave advice on nursing and the running of hospitals, and became a member of its Ladies’ Committee.

Here are five quick facts about how she influenced our work:

  • She introduced women nurses into military hospitals, set up kitchens to provide suitable diets for the invalids, provided recreational facilities for convalescents and improved the distribution of supplies. These principles have been the basis for much of the Red Cross’ work in later wars.
  • She believed in social welfare. This inspired the Red Cross to provide aftercare for ex-service men and to develop health and welfare services during peace time.
  • Florence Nightingale’s belief met with the Red Cross’ principle of neutrality. She said: “Suffering lifts its victim above normal values. While suffering endures there is neither good nor bad, valuable nor invaluable, enemy nor friend. The victim has passed to a region beyond human classification or moral judgements and his suffering is a sufficient claim.”
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross began the Florence Nightingale medal in 1912, to be awarded annually to nurses who had given exceptional care to the sick and wounded in war or peace. This medal is still awarded today.
  • The first British air ambulance was named Florence Nightingale. It was owned by the Surrey Branch and was registered in 1933.