The statue of Mary Seacole, sited at St Thomas’ Hospital directly across the Thames from Big Ben, was unveiled by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE on 30 June 2016 in front of over 300 guests. It is the first statue of a named black woman in the United Kingdom.
The statue was funded through donations from thousands of individual supporters, as well as from a small number of larger donors. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also provided a grant from LIBOR banking fines towards the installation of the statue.
The statue is important in symbolising Mary Seacole’s contribution, particularly as a nurse, and that of people from ethnic communities to British society.
But we see it as much more than just a memorial. We intend the statue to be a powerful influence for good, harnessing the positivity arising from the renewed awareness of Mary Seacole and creating lasting benefits for society.
To promote Mary Seacole as a source of inspiration for a fair, diverse and inclusive society, never again to be hidden from history
It has never been more important to recognise people from ethnic communities who have made important contributions to our society over centuries. Like many others, Mary Seacole was hidden from history for 100 years. But thanks to a determined public fundraising campaign, a statue of Mary, the first bronze statue to a named black woman in the UK, was erected in London in June 2016. The Mary Seacole Trust is here to maintain this beautiful memorial.
But our work does not end there.
As well as being the guardians of sculptor Martin Jennings’ magnificent statue, we want the public – young people in particular – to benefit from Mary’s legacy and to understand why her story is our story: her message is timeless.
As a nurse who overcame racism within the establishment to go to the Crimean War battlefields under her own steam in her 50s, Mary represents compassion, bravery, entrepreneurialism and sheer determination. Those fine qualities speak for themselves. What was true for Mary in the Victorian era is equally true today: racism must always be challenged and at every level in society.
For people from ethnic communities who encounter institutional racism on a daily basis, Mary is a role model and an inspiration. We at MST will highlight such discrimination and work with others to find solutions.
We value everyone’s contribution, believing that Mary’s values apply across society and we will take every opportunity to promote them, whether that is through our educational work with younger people or encouraging diversity in leadership.
We recognise that we are part of a wider movement across the UK of people who want to see a fairer, more equal society. Mary’s statue stands as a symbol of the world we need to build for ourselves and future generations.
- welcome and encourage diversity
- are inclusive and value peoples’ contributions
- are positive but not afraid to challenge
- are outward looking and responsive
- use resources effectively to improve our performance
The Mary Seacole Trust originated as the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, established in 2004. The charity was set up to educate the public on the life, work and achievements of Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole, including erecting a statue capturing her spirit, whilst also emphasising the importance of the nursing profession.
The Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal formally changed its name to the Mary Seacole Trust on 1 November 2016. The transition was publicised by a launch event at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton in June this year.
The Mary Seacole Trust is extremely grateful to Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity for the significant grant of £50,000 that has enabled us to consolidate our renewed focus and work toward our goals.
We are developing a Sustainability Plan to ensure reliable funding streams for all elements of the programme. The plan covers the use of social media to drive individuals’ donations, applying for appropriate grants and developing corporate partnerships. For example, we will introduce a “Seacole Baton” initiative, which will see the introduction of organisations holding the Seacole Baton for, say, a year. Baton holders will raise funds and increase awareness of Mary Seacole and our work.
We are working with our partners to implement two programmes:- (1) An education programme and (2) a diversity in leadership programme. Our priorities are to develop: the Mary Seacole Trust website, an exhibition about Mary Seacole at the Florence Nightingale Museum and a project, working with the NHS, to increase diversity in senior management.