Florence Nightingale and Anne Sullivan: Caregiving Icons

Those who provide care for loved ones make great sacrifices every day. They caregiving icons also achieve a special kind of greatness that few people can completely understand.

Caregiving Icons

Most of their deeds will be unknown by all but a handful of people. However, there have been some caregivers through history that have become caregiving icons.

They provide both a great example for others to follow and inspiration for those who provide caregiving every day.

These are two of those people.

Florence Nightingale

Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy, in 1820 (hence her first name). Born to a wealthy British family living in Italy at the time, Nightingale was expected to follow the path already laid out for children of wealth. But she decided to blaze a trail of her own.

Nightingale felt God had called her to help others as a nurse. Despite her parents’ protests, she pursued a career as a nurse, changing many of the methods used at the time. Patients came to know her as “The Lady with the lamp,” because she routinely made rounds to her patients at night.

Nightingale went to school for nursing in Germany. During the Crimean War, she organized and led a group of nurses to care for soldiers. Taking over an infected hospital (it literally sat over a cesspool), Nightingale’s efforts to clean the hospital and provide better care cut the death rate by two thirds. Her legacy was established.

She spent the rest of her life dedicated to preventing disease and improving conditions for patients.

Anne Sullivan

Sullivan is famous for her work with Helen Keller, a deaf-and-blind girl from Alabama. Through her tireless efforts, Sullivan managed to break through Keller’s isolation and teach her to read and write. Keller eventually graduated from college and became a writer.

Her efforts provided the story for “The Miracle Worker,” a Broadway play and film starring Anne Bancroft.

Sullivan herself was almost blind. Around the age of five, a bacterial eye infection led to her losing her sight over the course of her life. The daughter of poor Irish immigrants, Sullivan was sent to live in a group home with her brother after he mother died (her father had abandoned his children).  Her brother died just a few months after their arrival.

While such events might have broken many people, Sullivan managed to convince those running the home to transfer her to the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. There, her eyesight was improved through a series of operations. She also received an education, graduating as valedictorian of her class.

When the parents of Helen Keller contacted the school, looking for someone to help their daughter, Sullivan took the job and traveled to Alabama and into the history books.

Both Nightingale and Sullivan provide examples of the power of providing care to others. For those caregivers providing care right now, they stand as inspirational figures.

That’s why Hope Grows offers support for caregivers through a variety of programs – it’s a way of aiding and honoring those who might not be famous, but play just as important of a role in society.

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