Date: August 24, 2013

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Henri Dunant, speech on Florence Nightingale at the Geneva Convection (August, 1864)

To the many who pay their homage to Miss Nightingale, though a very humble person of a small country, Switzerland, I yet want to add my tribute of praise and admiration. As the founder of the Red Cross and originator of the diplomatic Convention of Geneva, I feel emboldened to pay my homage.

To Miss Nightingale I give all the honor of this humane Convection. It was her work in the Crimea that inspired me to go Italy during the war of 1859, to share the horrors of war, to relieve the helplessness of the unfortunate victim to their duty, far from their native country, and to water the poetic land of Italy with their blood.

A history of the Western Sanitary Commission, written in 1864, begins with this credit to Florence Nightingale’s pioneering work:

The first organized attempt to mitigate the horrors of war, to prevent disease and save the lives of those engaged in military service by sanitary measures and a more careful nursing of the sick and wounded, was made by a commission appointed by the British Government during the Crimean war, to inquire into the terrible mortality from disease that attended the British army at Sebastopol, and to apply the needed remedies. It was as a part of this great work that the heroic young Englishwoman, Florence Nightingale, with her army of nurses, went to the Crimea to care for the sick and wounded soldier, to minister in hospitals, and to alleviate suffering and pain, with a self sacrifice and devotion that has made her name a household word, wherever the English language is spoken.

Letter in the times on the activities of Florence Nightingale at Scutari (February, 1855)

Wherever there is disease in its most dangerous form, and the hand of the spoiler distressingly nigh, there is that incomparable woman sure to be seen; her benignant presence is an influence for good comfort even amid the struggles of expiring nature. She is a ‘ministering angel’ without any exaggeration in these hospitals, and as her slender form glides quietly along each corridor, every fellow’s face softens with gratitude at the sight of her.

Her method of work was one of untiring thoroughness in reading, assembling, observing, testing and analyzing of everything to be had on the subject at home or abroad, and then lining up her facts with the obvious intent to produce action. Queen Victoria expressed recognition of her thoroughness “I wish we had her at the war office”

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