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Florence Nightingale was born in 1820. As she grew up she came to believe that God had a special job for her.

Her parents were rich and they wanted her to marry someone rich and important. A man called Lord Houghton asked Florence to marry him. If Florence had married him but she would have had a very nice life, with servants to look after her. Her job would have been to write letters to ask people to come to tea and to organise parties. She knew that if she was doing this she would not be able to do the job that God wanted. She said,"No." Her mother was very upset.

When Florence was 25 years old she thought she knew what it was that God wanted her to do. He wanted her to become a nurse. Nowadays we know that nurses do a very important job because they help ill people to get well and many parents are very pleased if their daughter or their son decides to be a nurse. Today there are many nurses who are men. In 1820 people did not think that nursing was a very good job. They thought that it was something that was done by poor people who could not get a better job. Florence Nightingale's parents were rich and when Florence told them that she wanted to be a nurse they were not very pleased and at first they said ."No."

Florence kept asking her father and after a while he changed his mind. Florence went to Germany to learn to be a nurse. At that time there was a really good school for training nurses in Germany so when Florence had finished and come back to Britain she had some very good new ideas. She got a job looking after a hospital for women in London.

In 1853 Russia went to war with Turkey and there was fighting between Russians and Turks in a place called the Crimea and the war is called the Crimean war. British soldiers and French soldiers were sent to help the Turkish soldiers. This was a terrible war and many soldiers were killed on the battlefield but many were injured and taken to hospital at a place called Scutari. Now once they were in the hospital, many of them died. We might expect that some would die from their wounds but many more of them died from diseases they got once they were in hospital. The hospitals were dirty and there were rats running about in the wards.

Florence Nightingale went to go and help. She had a team of other nurses with her and she was the Head.

When she got to the hospital she found that the men were not being properly looked after. They were not given blankets to keep them warm and they were not being given good food to eat. They were not washed and some of them had not had their clothes changed. They were still wearing their uniforms which had blood on them, from the time that they were injured. Rats were running about the ward. The main sewer, which took water away from the sinks was blocked.

Now at this time people did not really understand what made people ill. We know now that a lot of illness is caused by germs and that these can be spread by rats. We know that drains must not be allowed to stay blocked and that wounds must be kept clean. Before 1853 a man called Louis Pasteur had said that diseases were caused by germs but not everyone believed him. This was a very modern idea. Now actually Florence did not think that germs caused disease but she did think that dirt, dirty wounds and rats had something to do with people becoming ill. She also thought that it was important that the soldiers should have good food to help them to get better.

Florence spoke to the military officers who were in command of the men. She also spoke to army doctors but neither the officers or the doctors would help her. "We are in charge," they thought, "How dare this woman come and start telling us what to do."

She wrote to the Times newspaper and the editor said he would do all he could to help. The Times newspaper started telling people what was wrong and Florence was put in charge of the hospital at Scutari. She gave instructions that the drains must be cleared out, the hospital be cleaned and that the rats should be got rid of.

The men were given better food, Their wounds were washed and their clothes were changed.

They really liked Florence because of what she did for them. Sometimes she came round the wards at night, carrying a lamp. They called her "The Lady with the lamp."

Because Florence had done all these things many more of the soldiers in hospital got better and not so many of them died.

When Florence Nightingale came back to Britain she was famous because many people had read in the papers what she was doing.

She spent a lot of her time writing letters and talking to people to help them to see that there needed to be good schools to train good nurses. She even went to speak to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

 She collected money and she used it to start The Nightingale School and Home for Nurses in London. The people who went there were very well taught so they became very good nurses.

She wanted things to improve in all the army hospitals so that  men who had been wounded in battle would be looked after much better. She managed to show the government that they needed to do something about this and they set up a school to train nurses in the army.

It is partly because of the things that Florence Nightingale did that we now have very good nurses and people know that this is a very important job.

Florence Nightingale died in 1910. She was 90 years old.

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