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Mary Seacole

Mary Jane Seacole (née Grant) is the author of one of the earliest autobiographies by a woman of mixed race, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857). She was born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1805 as the daughter of a Scottish officer in the British Army and a free Jamaican woman, who passed on her medical knowledge to her daughter Mary. Little is known about her marriage to the merchant Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole, with whom she ran a provisions store in Jamaica from 1836 until his death in1844.

Seacole travelled widely before and after her marriage and developed her medical expertise during her business trips to other Caribbean islands, Britain, South America and the Crimea. She attempted to join Florence Nightingale's nursing corps during the Crimean war; when she was refused, she used her own resources to set up a British Hotel for allied soldiers near Balaclava. The war financially ruined Seacole, but charity drives organized in her honour saved her from post-war destitution by charity drives. She died in London in 1881.


Dabydeen, David, and Nana Wilson-Tagoe. “Women Writers: Mary Seacole’s Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. (1857); reprinted in 1984 by FallingWall Press.” A Reader’s Guide to West-Indian and Black British Literature. 2nd rev. ed. Hatfield: Hansib, 1997. 134-138. Print.

Innes, C.L. A History of Black and Asian Writing in Britain 1700-2000. Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.

Rahbek, Ulla. “Black British Travel Literature’, European English Messenger 11.2 (2002): 22-26. Print. [includes a discussion of Mary Seacole]

Seacole, Mary. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands. London: James Blackwood, 1857. Print.

Sandhu, Sukhdev. London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City. London: Harper, 2003. Print.