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Florence Nightingale on Women's Rights

1898

By

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale, from Eminent Women of the Age, 1868.

(c) Jone Johnson Lewis, 2003

Excerpt from the 1898 edition of Florence Nightingale's Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not:

I would earnestly ask my sisters to keep clear of both the jargons now current every where (for they are equally jargons) ; of the jargon, namely, about the "rights" of women, which urges women to do all that men do, including the medical and other professions, merely because men do it, and without regard to whether this is the best that women, can do; and of the jargon which urges women to do nothing that men do, merely because they are women, and should be "recalled to a sense of their duty as women," and because "this is women's work," and "that is men's," and "these are things which women should not do," which is all assertion, and nothing more. Surely woman should bring the best she has, whatever that is, to the work of God's world, without attending to either of these cries. For what are they, both of them, the one just as much as the other, but listening to the "what people will say," to opinion, to the "voices from without?" And as a wise man has said, no one has ever done anything great or useful by listening to the voices from without.

You do not want the effect of your good things to be, "How wonderful for a woman!" nor would you be deterred from good things by hearing it said, "Yes, but she ought not to have done this, because it is not suitable for a woman." But you want to do the thing that is good, whether it is "suitable for a woman" or not.

It does not make a thing good, that it is remarkable that a woman should have been able to do it. Neither does it make a thing bad, which would have been good had a man done it, that it has been done by a woman.

Oh, leave these jargons, and go your way straight to God's work, in simplicity and singleness of heart.

Excerpt from the 1898 edition of Florence Nightingale's Notes on Nursing: What It Is, and What It Is Not.

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