Since Dean Doreen Harper came to the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing in 2005, she has taken a special interest in the Florence Nightingale Letters, their preservation, and in sharing them with the community. To this end, the Reynolds Historical Library (now the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library) and School of Nursing, with the assistance of the UAB Mervyn Sterne Library, have digitized the Nightingale letters and made them freely available through the UAB Digital Collections.
Furthermore, as part of the School of Nursing’s 60th anniversary celebrations in 2010, a special exhibit on Florence Nightingale sponsored by the school and the Historical Collections of Lister Hill Library (of which the Reynolds-Finley Library is part), was displayed from November 30, 2010 through May 2011 in the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences on the 3rd floor of Lister Hill Library. Click here to view a PDF of the exhibit, which was supplemented by letters in display cases. Also, a special “Night with Nightingale” event was held on November 30 to open the exhibit with a reception and lecture titled “Florence Nightingale: Learning From the Past & Looking Forward to the Future," by Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, International Co-Director, Nightingale Initiative for Global Health. Click here to view the podcast of this lecture.
A Message from the Dean of the UAB School of Nursing
UAB’s Nightingale Letter Collection is an amazing set of letters and documents that depict Nightingale’s vision and leadership in nursing and exemplify the core values that sustain nursing as a profession. The Nightingale Initiative has activated a partnership between UAB’s School of Nursing and the Reynolds [now Reynolds-Finley] Historical Collection at the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences. The Initiative includes the opening of this website, the digitized letters available on exhibit, scholarly activities, visiting lecturers and fellows, and fundraising for an interactive exhibit located in the School of Nursing to expose nurses, students, faculty and other health professionals about the linkage between health care quality and evidenced based practice proposed by Nightingale more than 100 years ago.
These 50 handwritten letters span from 1853 to 1893 and the collection also includes documents and reports submitted to members of Parliament, the Royal Commission and policymakers, as well as a copy of the Mortality of the British Army with an inscription to Nightingale’s mother dated 1867, and also contains two photographs of Nightingale. The Collection consists of letters sent by Nightingale to Madame Julie Salis-Schwabe, Thomas Gillham Hewlett, MD, Richard Whitfield, and testimony to Parliament. The letters, acquired in 1951 at a New York bookstore by Lawrence Reynolds, MD, were later donated to UAB in 1958.
The UAB School of Nursing has a substantial interest and investment in these letters as they relate to the profession’s core values, global health and nursing leadership and has worked closely with the Historical Collections staff to exhibit, digitize, and display this relatively unseen collection of Nightingale. Founded in 1950, UAB’s nursing school has a history of distinguished leadership among its peers and has produced countless nursing leaders worldwide. The School has been designated as a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization Collaborating Center (WHOCC) for International Nursing since 1993 with recognition of the School's sustained leadership in global nursing development. I invite you to examine this website and to spend some time reading Nightingale’s relatively unknown letters. I hope you are inspired as I am to learn about the Nightingale Letter Collection- her “living” legacy in nursing, public health and health care administration here at UAB.
Doreen C. Harper, PhD, RN, FAAN
Dean, Professor and Fay B. Ireland Endowed Chair in Nursing