Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole

Mary Grant was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. Her father was a Scottish army officer and her mother a free black woman who ran a boarding house in Kingston. Mary's mother also treated people who become ill. She was a great believer in the herbal medicines. These medicines were based on the knowledge of slaves brought from Africa. This knowledge was passed on to Mary and later she also become a 'doctress'.

On 10th November 1836 she married, in Kingston, one of her mother's resident guests, Edwin Horatio Seacole, but she was soon widowed. According to her biographer, Alan Palmer: "With her sister, Louisa, she ran the family boarding-house for several years, supervising its reconstruction after Kingston's great fire in 1843. She nursed cases of cholera and yellow fever in Jamaica and at Las Cruces in Panama where, for more than two years, she helped her brother manage a hotel. On returning to Jamaica she was briefly nursing superintendent at Up-Park military camp."

In 1850 Kingston was hit by a cholera epidemic. Mary Seacole, used herbal medicines and other remedies including lead acetate and mercury chloride. She also dealt with a yellow fever outbreak in Jamaica. Her fame as a medical practitioner grew and she was soon carrying out operations on people suffering from knife and gunshot wounds.

Mary loved travelling and as a young woman visited the Bahamas, Haiti and Cuba. In these countries she collected details of how people used local plants and herbs to treat the sick. On one trip to Panama she helped treat people during another cholera epidemic. Mary carried out an autopsy on one victim and was therefore able to learn even more about the way the disease attacked the body.

In 1853 Russia invaded Turkey. Britain and France, concerned about the growing power of Russia, went to Turkey's aid. This conflict became known as the Crimean War. Soon after British soldiers arrived in Turkey, they began going down with cholera and malaria. Within a few weeks an estimated 8,000 men were suffering from these two diseases. At the time, disease was a far greater threat to soldiers than was the enemy. In the Crimean War, of the 21,000 soldiers who died, only 3,000 died from injuries received in battle.

Mary Seacole travelled to London to offer her services to the British Army. There was considerable prejudice against women's involvement in medicine and her offer was rejected. When The Times publicised the fact that a large number of British soldiers were dying of cholera there was a public outcry, and the government was forced to change its mind. Florence Nightingale, who had little practical experience of cholera, was chosen to take a team of thirty-nine nurses to treat the sick soldiers.

Mary Seacole's application to join Florence Nightingale's team was rejected. Mary, who had become a successful business woman in Jamaica, decided to travel to the Crimea at her own expense. She visited Florence Nightingale at her hospital at Scutari. Unwilling to accept defeat, Mary started up a business called the British Hotel but others referred to as “Mrs Seacole’s hut” a few miles from the battlefront. Here she sold food and drink to the British officers and a canteen for the soldiers.

Alan Palmer has argued: "Her independent status ensured a freedom of movement denied the formal nursing service; by June she was a familiar figure at the battle-front, riding forward with two mules in attendance, one carrying medicaments and the other food and wine. She brought medical comfort to the maimed and dying after the assault on the Redan, in which a quarter of the British force was killed or wounded, and she tended Italian, French, and Russian casualties at the Chernaya two months later."

Lady Alicia Blackwood wrote in A Narrative of Personal Experiences and Impressions during a Residence on the Bosphorous throughout the Crimean War (1881): "She (Mary Seacole) had, during the time of battle, and in the time of fearful distress, personally spared no pains and no exertion to visit the field of woe, and minister with her own hands such things as she could comfort, or alleviate the sufferings of those around her; freely giving to such as could not pay, and to many whose eyes were closing in death, from whom payment could never be expected."

Mary Seacole
Mary Seacole

William H. Russell, wrote in The Times: "In the hour of their illness, these men have found a kind and successful physician, a Mrs Seacole. She is from Kingston (Jamaica) and she doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battlefield to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow's blessing." However, Lynn MacDonald points out: "The medical treatment she gave to soldiers is easily exaggerated - her patients were all relatively healthy walk-ins. The most serious cases went to the general hospitals, the less serious to the regimental hospitals."

Whereas Florence Nightingale and her nurses were based in a hospital several miles from the front, Mary Seacole treated her patients on the battlefield. On several occasions she was found treating wounded soldiers from both sides while the battle was still going on. However, most of her time on battle days went to selling food and drink to officers and spectators.

After the war ended in 1856 Mary Seacole returned to England where she opened a canteen at Aldershot, a venture that failed through lack of funds. By November she was bankrupt. She was encouraged to write an autobiography, published by Blackwood in July 1857 as the Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole. It sold well and lived in some comfort during her final years. Mary Seacole died of apoplexy in London on 14th May, 1881.

On 31st December 2012, Guy Walters reported in The Daily Mail: "The £500,000 memorial - larger than the statue of Florence Nightingale near Pall Mall - will show Seacole marching out to the battlefield, a medical bag over her shoulder, a row of medals proudly pinned to her chest. There's just one problem: historians around the world are growing increasingly uneasy about the statue, amid claims the adulation of Seacole has gone too far. They claim her achievements have been hugely oversold for political reasons, and out of a commendable - but in this case misguided - desire to create positive black role models. Now Seacole is at the centre of a new controversy with the news that the story of her life will no longer be taught to thousands of pupils. Westminster Education Secretary Michael Gove has decreed that instead they will learn about traditional figures such as Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill."

Walters quoted Lynn MacDonald, a history professor and world expert on Florence Nightingale, who feels Seacole is being promoted at the expense of Nightingale. "Nightingale was the pioneer nurse, not Mary Seacole. It's fine to have a statue to whoever you want, but Seacole was not a pioneer nurse, she didn't call herself a nurse, she didn't practise nursing, and she had no association with St Thomas's or any other hospital."

Imran Kahn, an executive member of Conservative Muslim Forum and a former Conservative councillor, argued in New Statesman on 5th January, 2013: "According to newspaper reports, Mary Seacole is to be dropped from the national curriculum so history teachers can concentrate on Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell. Tellingly, teachers themselves have not been coming forward to offer support for this move. The idea that schools must silence black voices so teachers can talk about Churchill, Cromwell or Nelson is one that barely merits serious argument. But bearing in mind that the abolition of slavery occurred during the lifetime of Mary Seacole in 1840, and the gigantic military presence in the British West Indies – 93 infantry regiments serving between 1793 and 1815 – not to mention her own crucial role, Seacole is ideally placed to mark out hugely significant historical events. Michael Gove must trust teachers to decide what is in the best interests of children, instead of air-brushing black people out of history. There is no question that historical black role models such as Seacole give children of all races important tools in overcoming racist assumptions about black and Asian peoples’ contribution to Britain. Knowing about black history educates all of us, promotes respect and helps to inculcate shared multicultural values."

Opponents of the idea of removing Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum started an online petition: "The Government is proposing to remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. We are opposed to this and wish to see Mary Seacole retained so that current and future generations can appreciate this important historical person. Her role in the Crimea War fully justifies Mary Seacole's status as a Victorian figure taught in schools today. She was a national heroine on her return to Britain and a crowd of 80,000 attended a four day fundraising benefit in her honour in 1857. Her inclusion on the National Curriculum came as a result of a tireless campaigning to recognise someone who had become a forgotten figure in modern times. Her proposed removal can only be attributed to a recent backlash against Mary Seacole as a symbol of 'political correctness' by Right-wing media and commentators. To remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum is tantamount to rewriting history to fit a worldview hostile to Britain's historical diversity.... Mary Seacole the only Black figure to feature in the National Curriculum not connected to civil rights or enslavement and removing someone who was voted by the public the Greatest Black Briton sends out the wrong signals. We should be taught more Black history not less."

The petition was signed by 35,000 people and The Independent reported on 7th February, 2013: "The 'greatest black Briton' Mary Seacole is to remain on the National Curriculum after an apparent U-turn by Education Secretary Michael Gove, The Independent has learned. The move represents a major victory for campaigners, who opposed his plans to drop her. The reprieve was granted under pressure from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, as well as Operation Black Vote which set up a petition signed by more than 35,000 people. On the old Curriculum, Mary Seacole - who cared for soldiers during the Crimean War – appeared in the annex as suggested as someone primary school teachers could use in their classrooms to illustrate Victorian Britain. In the new document, her story is even more central. Seacole, one of the first and most prominent black figures in British history, appears alongside Florence Nightingale and Annie Besant as a figure high school pupils should cover in order to learn about."

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(S1) Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole (1857)

Simple remedies which are available for the terrible diseases by which foreigners are attacked (can be) found growing under the same circumstances which produce the ills they minister to. So true is it, that beside the nettle ever grows the cure for the sting.

(S2) Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole (1857)

In my country, where people know our use, it would have been different; but here (England) it was natural enough that they should laugh, good-naturedly enough, at my offer... Once again I tried, and had an interview this time with one of Miss Nightingale's companions. She gave me the same reply, and I read in her face the fact, that had there been a vacancy, I should not have been chosen to fill it... Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?

(S3) The Morning Advertiser (19 January, 1855)

She (Mary Seacole) is often seen riding out to the front with baskets of medicines of her own preparation, and this is particularly the case after an engagement with the enemy.

(S4) Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole (1857)

I was generally up and busy by daybreak, sometimes earlier, for in the summer my bed had no attractions strong enough to bind me to it after four. There was plenty to do before the work of the day began. There was the poultry to pluck and prepare for cooking, which had been killed on the previous night; the joints to be cut up and got ready for the same purpose; the medicines to be mixed; the store to be swept and cleaned.

By 7 o'clock the morning coffee would be ready. From that time until 9 o'clock, officers on duty in the neighbourhood or passing by would look in for breakfast. About half past nine my sick patients began to show themselves. In the following hour they came thickly and sometimes it was past twelve before I had got through this duty. They came with every variety of suffering and disease; the cases I most disliked were the frostbitten fingers and feet in winter.

(S5) Letter written by Sir John Hall, Inspector-General of Hospitals (30 June, 1856)

She (Mary Seacole) not only, from the knowledge she had acquired in the West Indies, was enabled to administer appropriate remedies for their ailments, but, what was of as much importance, she charitably furnished them with proper nourishment, which they had no means of obtaining except in hospital, and most of that class had an objection to go into hospital.

(S6) William H. Russell, The Times (27th September, 1855)

In the hour of their illness, these men have found a kind and successful physician, a Mrs Seacole. She is from Kingston (Jamaica) and she doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battlefield to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow's blessing.

(S7) Dr. Reid, a surgeon in the British Army serving in the Crimea, wrote this letter to his family in 1855.

Here I met a celebrated person. A coloured woman, Mrs Seacole. Out of the goodness of her heart and at her own expense she supplied hot tea to the poor sufferers while they waited to be lifted into the boats (that took them to the hospital).

She did not spare herself if she could do any good to the suffering soldiers. In rain and snow, day after day, she was at her post. With her stove and kettle, in any shelter she could find, she brewed tea for all who wanted it - and there were many.

(S8) An extract from a poem published about Mary Seacole in Punch Magazine (6th December, 1856)

She gave her aid to all in need

To hungry, sick and cold

Open hand and heart, ready to give

Kind words, and acts, and gold

And now the good soul is "in a hole"

What soldier in all -the land

To set her on her feet again

Won't give a helping hand?

(S9) Ziggy Alexander and Audrey Dewje, article about Mary Seacole (1984)

In March 1856, the war ended suddenly. Mrs Seacole returned to England without any money. She tried to set up her business again selling her wares to soldiers. By November her business had failed and she was in the London Bankruptcy Court. The Times newspaper published letters from people who wanted to set up a fund to repay her for the money she had spent in the Crimea.

In 1867 another committee was set up to help her. This time Queen Victoria supported it. She thanked Mary Seacole for her work in the Crimea.

(S10) Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole (1857)

A poor, little, brown-faced orphan infant, scarce a year old, was dying (of cholera) in my arms, and I was powerless to save it... towards morning the wee spirit left this sinful world for the home above... how the idea first arose in my mind I can hardly say - that, if it were possible to take this little child and examine it, I should learn more of the terrible disease which was sparing neither young nor old, and should know better how to do battle with it... I followed the man who had taken the dead child away to bury it, and bribed him to carry it by an unfrequented path... I need not linger on this scene, nor give the readers the results of my operation... But the knowledge I had obtained thus strangely was very valuable to me, and was soon put into practice.

(S11) Lady Alicia Blackwood, A Narrative of Personal Experiences and Impressions during a Residence on the Bosphorous throughout the Crimean War (1881)

She (Mary Seacole) had, during the time of battle, and in the time of fearful distress, personally spared no pains and no exertion to visit the field of woe, and minister with her own hands such things as she could comfort, or alleviate the sufferings of those around her; freely giving to such as could not pay, and to many whose eyes were closing in death, from whom payment could never be expected.

(S12) Report in The Times newspaper on the Royal Guards Regimental Dinner (26 August, 1856)

Among the visitors was Mrs Seacole, whose appearance awakened the most rapturous enthusiasm. The soldiers not only cheered her, but chaired her around the gardens, and she might have suffered from the oppressive attentions of her admirers, were it not that two sergeants of extraordinary stature gallantly undertook to protect her from the pressure of the crowd. However, the excellent lady did not appear in the least alarmed, but, on the contrary, smiled most graciously and seemed highly gratified.

(S13) Mary Seacole's grave at St. Mary'sCatholic Cemetery, Harrow Road, London (S1)
(S13) Mary Seacole's grave at St. Mary's
Catholic Cemetery, Harrow Road, London

(S14) Guy Walters, The Daily Mail (31st December, 2012)

She is regarded as our greatest black Briton, a woman who did more to advance the cause of nursing - and race relations - than almost any other individual.

On the Crimea's bloody battlefields, she is said to have saved the lives of countless wounded soldiers and nursed them to health in a clinic paid for out of her own pocket.

Her name was Mary Seacole, and today she is almost as famous as that other nursing heroine, Florence Nightingale.

For decades after her death in 1881, Seacole's story was largely overlooked, but for the past 15 years her reputation and exploits have undergone a remarkable rehabilitation.


Schoolchildren are taught about her achievements and for many, Seacole, born in Jamaica in 1805 to a white Scottish officer called Grant and a Creole woman from whom Mary learned her "nursing skills", is seen as a secular saint.

Numerous schools, hospitals and universities have rooms or buildings named after her, and shortly she will get her greatest tribute yet: an 8ft tall bronze statue is to be erected to her memory in the grounds of St Thomas's Hospital, facing towards the Houses of Parliament.


The £500,000 memorial - larger than the statue of Florence Nightingale near Pall Mall - will show Seacole marching out to the battlefield, a medical bag over her shoulder, a row of medals proudly pinned to her chest.


There's just one problem: historians around the world are growing increasingly uneasy about the statue, amid claims the adulation of Seacole has gone too far.


They claim her achievements have been hugely oversold for political reasons, and out of a commendable - but in this case misguided - desire to create positive black role models.


Now Seacole is at the centre of a new controversy with the news that the story of her life will no longer be taught to thousands of pupils.

Westminster Education Secretary Michael Gove has decreed that instead they will learn about traditional figures such as Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill.

So is it unfair to reduce her standing in this way? Not according to several historians.


"The hype that has built up surrounding this otherwise worthy woman is a disgrace to the serious study of history," declares William Curtis of the Crimean War Research Society.

His views are shared by Major Colin Robins, a Fellow of the Historical Society who recently wrote a paper for an academic journal stating that Seacole is the "subject of many myths", arguing that numerous 'facts' concerning her life are simply untrue.

Indeed, Major Robins singles out the teaching of some of the stories about Seacole as "irresponsible" and "certainly not history".

Meanwhile, leading the charge against the statue being placed at St Thomas's is Lynn McDonald, a history professor and world expert on Florence Nightingale, who feels Seacole is being promoted at the expense of Nightingale.

"Nightingale was the pioneer nurse, not Mary Seacole," says McDonald. "It's fine to have a statue to whoever you want, but Seacole was not a pioneer nurse, she didn't call herself a nurse, she didn't practise nursing, and she had no association with St Thomas's or any other hospital."

(S15) Petition on Mary Seacole (February, 2013)

The Government is proposing to remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. We are opposed to this and wish to see Mary Seacole retained so that current and future generations can appreciate this important historical person.

Her role in the Crimea War fully justifies Mary Seacole's status as a Victorian figure taught in schools today. She was a national heroine on her return to Britain and a crowd of 80,000 attended a four day fundraising benefit in her honour in 1857.

Her inclusion on the National Curriculum came as a result of a tireless campaigning to recognise someone who had become a forgotten figure in modern times. Her proposed removal can only be attributed to a recent backlash against Mary Seacole as a symbol of 'political correctness' by Right-wing media and commentators. To remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum is tantamount to rewriting history to fit a worldview hostile to Britain's historical diversity.

Moreover, the teaching of Black historical figures is widely recognised to be beneficial to the success of Black pupils and in closing the GCSE achievement gap. Indeed it is to advantage of pupils from all backgrounds in our increasingly diverse schools and society. Mary Seacole, as a Jamaican/Scottish figure, is a positive role model and is well-respected in NHS circles.

Sir W. H Russell, Crimean War correspondent for The Times, said of Seacole: "Let England not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead."

Mary Seacole the only Black figure to feature in the National Curriculum not connected to civil rights or enslavement and removing someone who was voted by the public the Greatest Black Briton (100greatblackbritons.com) sends out the wrong signals. We should be taught more Black history not less.

We therefore call upon the government to retain inclusion of Mary Seacole in the national curriculum.

(S16) Hugh Muir, The Guardian (6th January, 2013)

Life may unfold in dribs and drabs but put them together and pretty soon you have a narrative. And in much the same way, one can look at the stories of recent days about Mary Seacole, and discern a pattern. Time to knock the black icon off her perch, appears to be the philosophy, and it starts with Michael Gove – who else? He wants the nurse and her exploits expunged from the national curriculum because once she has gone, there will be more time for Churchill, and to learn the names of all of the kings and queens of England.

Time also perhaps for other desirable and modern essentials, such as fagging and Latin. But she's of historical importance, isn't she? No she isn't, say a motley assortment of historians, and guardians of the memory of Florence Nightingale. Into the fray rides the Daily Mail. "The black Florence Nightingale and the making of a PC myth," it says. "One historian explains how Mary Seacole's story never stood up." She wasn't really black, it says. She wasn't really a nurse. She was just a sort of cheery barmaid dispensing bonhomie and medicine. "She undoubtedly did at some point go on to a battlefield dispensing comforts such as wine and doing her best to deal with the odd injury." But, hey, she was no Florence Nightingale.

Spare a thought for Lord Soley, for as chair of the Mary Seacole memorial statue appeal, he has to deal as diplomatically as he can with those who would traduce her memory for their own purposes. On the day of publication, he patiently composed a letter to the Daily Mail challenging the premise of Seacole as a modern-day construct born of political correctness. His letter has yet to see the light of day. He has cross-party support and military encouragement, but with the ongoing resistance to the idea of a statue and now her dismissal from the curriculum, Soley is faced with a fight on two fronts. And there's no need for it, he tells me.

Was she important? Well, the military was quick to honour her. Does she threaten Nightingale? No. Nightingale developed modern nursing and training. Seacole reigned on the battlefield. It's not a competition. And, guess what, it is possible for a person of colour to gain prominence for reasons other than political correctness. Gove and co, take note.

(S17) Imran Kahn, New Statesman (5th January, 2013)

Black voices are rarely heard in classroom history lessons. Now, Education Secretary, Michael Gove, wants to eliminate the few last visible narratives of black people in British history taught within schools.

According to newspaper reports, Mary Seacole is to be dropped from the national curriculum so history teachers can concentrate on Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell. Tellingly, teachers themselves have not been coming forward to offer support for this move. The idea that schools must silence black voices so teachers can talk about Churchill, Cromwell or Nelson is one that barely merits serious argument. But bearing in mind that the abolition of slavery occurred during the lifetime of Mary Seacole in 1840, and the gigantic military presence in the British West Indies – 93 infantry regiments serving between 1793 and 1815 – not to mention her own crucial role, Seacole is ideally placed to mark out hugely significant historical events.

Michael Gove must trust teachers to decide what is in the best interests of children, instead of air-brushing black people out of history. There is no question that historical black role models such as Seacole give children of all races important tools in overcoming racist assumptions about black and Asian peoples’ contribution to Britain. Knowing about black history educates all of us, promotes respect and helps to inculcate shared multicultural values.

Mary Seacole was a woman famous mainly because of her services during the Crimean war when she nursed British soldiers. Her story is remarkable not because of the countless lives she saved, or, for the valour with which she served her nation. Of much greater significance is the immense white privilege and patriarchy she fought just to get to the frontline, struggling against resistance from the state. When the war office rejected her appeal to become an army assistant in the Crimea, she decided to come to London anyway. Even though she was rejected by Florence Nightingale, Seacole spent every penny to risk life and limb so she could heal wounded British and allied soldiers. Forced to take loans in order to make the 4,000-mile trip, she travelled on her own, in dangerous times.

Known as “Mother Seacole” by the British military who loved her, 80,000 people, including Major General Lord Rokeby, who commanded the 1st Division in Crimea, turned out to a fund-raising event for her when they heard she was short of funds. Clearly, Seacole had the adoration of several tens of thousands of people during her lifetime, if not more.

Compare this to the current state of affairs. Although the department of education currently seems to be experiencing something of a “Little Britain” sick scene, it was only last year when Seacole was held in great esteem by the Department of Health. In February, the department invited applications from nurses, midwives and health visitors in England to participate in a “prestigious Mary Seacole Awards programme”. The aim, of which, was to carry out health care and educational projects to improve the health outcomes of people from black and minority ethnic communities.

Maybe Michael Gove didn’t get the memo, but last week David Cameron called for greater respect to be shown towards black and minority ethnic communities. Surely, this is not what the PM meant when he said MPs should “increase their presence in the ethnic minority press.” In making these curriculum changes, Gove is out of touch with modern voters, giving the PM a proverbial middle finger, and seriously putting in danger current work to encourage diversity.

As a patriot, Micahel Gove should honour the memory of Britain’s war heroes. In 1856 William Howard Russell, special correspondent of the Times and influential journalist, wrote: "I have witnessed her (Mary Seacole) devotion and her courage...and I trust that England will never forget one who has nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead".

The Tory party’s extreme right must recognise that multiculturalism has given Britain the richness and diversity which propelled it into its current place amongst powerful world states. The sooner black and Asian history is told loudly and clearly, the more quickly we can all benefit as a united nation.

(S18) Kevin Rawlinson, The Independent (7th February, 2013)

The “greatest black Briton” Mary Seacole is to remain on the National Curriculum after an apparent U-turn by Education Secretary Michael Gove, The Independent has learned. The move represents a major victory for campaigners, who opposed his plans to drop her.

The reprieve was granted under pressure from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, as well as Operation Black Vote which set up a petition signed by more than 35,000 people.

On the old Curriculum, Mary Seacole - who cared for soldiers during the Crimean War – appeared in the annex as suggested as someone primary school teachers could use in their classrooms to illustrate Victorian Britain. In the new document, her story is even more central.

Seacole, one of the first and most prominent black figures in British history, appears alongside Florence Nightingale and Annie Besant as a figure high school pupils should cover in order to learn about “Britain’s social and cultural development during the Victorian era”.

Reports had suggested that Mr Gove planned to replace her with more traditional figures, such as Winston Churchill. But last month, sources close to Deputy Prime Minister made it known that Mr Clegg would fight to stop her removal from the rewritten Curriculum.

The apparent change of heart comes as Mr Gove also backed down on his controversial plans to scrap GCSEs in favour of a new English Baccalaureate.

Simon Woolley, Director of Operation Black Vote - which set up the petition on campaigning site Change.org - said: “This is a great victory for education. Our children and generation of children to come will learn of the great exploits of both Mary Seacole and Oladauh Equiano. Our history’s rich diversity will both educate and inspire young students black and white.”

Change.org’s John Coventry said: “This is a fantastic example of people power in action. The power of the story of Mary Seacole and the importance of her inclusion in children’s education clearly resonated with people across the UK. We're very pleased change.org could help win this campaign.”

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Previous media reports that Mary Seacole was not included in the new National Curriculum were speculation. We have never said that Mary Seacole would not be a part of the Curriculum.”