The Crimean War was a bloody affair, claiming a huge number of British lives. But the number might have been higher still had it not been for the heroic efforts of Florence Nightingale. Indeed, she not only made a real impact in the field hospitals of the Crimea, but she would go on to revolutionize nursing in general. Today, she is regarded as a true pioneer and many of the practices she introduced are still followed today. There can be no doubting her professional prowess. But what about her personal life? That remains the subject of much debate and speculation. Was the Lady with the Lamp asexual?
Born into an upper-class family in London in 1820, the young Nightingale was, by all accounts, a slim and attractive lady. Certainly, she wasn’t short of suitors. In fact, the politician and poet Richard Monckton Milnes pursued her for nine long years before she eventually told him to give up. She traveled widely, though nursing was her real passion. And so it was as a nurse that she, along with 38 other female volunteers, went to join the fields of the Crimean War in October of 1854. She made an immediate impact: her new rules for hygiene saw mortality rates in field hospitals plummet, and she made a name for herself as a kind and compassionate caregiver.
According to some biographer’s Nightingale was simply too busy for a love life of her own. That is, she focused all her time and energy on caring for others and never took the chance to pursue love or marriage for herself. Others, however, argue that she was drawn to nursing by what she felt was a religious calling, and it was this belief that she was doing God’s work that led her to staying chaste. However, there’s a strong argument that the real reason she remained alone all her life was that she simply wasn’t interested in either romance or sex. The Lady with the Lamp carried a torch for nobody, male or female, due to a simple lack of desire.