Amelia Bloomer vs. Florence Nightingale

Who will face Franz Jägerstätter in the Championship Round of Lent Madness 2017? That's the question of the day following Franz's narrow victory over Stephen 53% to 47% in the first of two Faithful Four matchups.

Two things are certain: 1) Franz's opponent will either be Amelia Bloomer or Florence Nightingale. 2) Today's Celebrity Bloggers, Laurie Brock and Anna Courie, are terrific writers and we're grateful for their witness.

To make it to the Faithful Four, Amelia Bloomer stymied Philipp Melanchthon, Fanny Crosby, and Raymond Nonnatus while Florence Nightingale made it past Anselm of Canterbury, Henry Beard Delany, and Martin Luther.

In case you missed the final in-season Monday Madness episode of 2017, watch it here. Tim and Scott are not BOTH in the Holy Land for Holy Week, but one of them is. And it's definitely not Tim. Because he's busy.

Amelia Bloomer

Imagine a world - or a church - without women’s voices.

Without the laughter of Sarah, without the judgments of Deborah, without the mutual joy of Mary and Elizabeth, and without the Easter proclamation of Mary Magdalene.

Amelia Bloomer didn’t have to struggle very hard to imagine. In the 19th century in which she lived, women in the United States were silenced by culture, by law, and by religion. Amelia, however, was not willing to allow others to silence the voice God gave her.

Amelia began using her voice as a leader in the temperance movement, a movement in America that, seen through our own 21st century experiences, can seem extreme. Amelia and those who advocated for temperance wanted alcohol sales banned. Amelia herself would not dine in a home where alcohol was served. Amelia had seen, in a country where women had little if no opportunity to work outside the home, her gender dependent upon wages brought home by husbands, the same wages readily spent at pubs and bars where pay was distributed. Cities and towns encouraged establishments to sell alcohol while spending no money on public wells for clean water. Amelia has heard the voices of women abused and neglected because of alcoholism.

Amelia used her voice to lift up other women. She published The Lily, a newspaper devoted to women’s issues. Its early articles focused on temperance, but as Amelia listened to the voices of other women leaders, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Lily addressed a range of issues, from fashions that allowed better mobility for women to voting rights. Amelia said of her newspaper, “It is woman that speaks through The Lily. It is upon an important subject, too, that she comes before the public to be heard.”

In reading biographies of Amelia, we likely wouldn’t know how the voice of God guided Amelia. She rarely wrote about the influence her Episcopal faith had on her viewpoints or even how her faith molded them. She was, however, a devout member of the Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls and frequently clashed with other women’s rights advocates for her unwillingness to condemn the Church outright, arguing she preferred to reform the Church from the inside as a member.

Throughout her life, Amelia was involved in a vast array of charitable and church organizations. She had sewing parties to make clothes for those in need. She and her husband welcomed several orphans into their home, worked for church ministries, and continued her dedication to temperance, often lecturing inebriated men on the street of the dangers of alcoholism and offering them help.

What would the world and the church be like without women’s voices?

Thanks to the work of women like Amelia Bloomer and those who continue her work to strive for justice, dignity, and equality for women in the church and the world, may a reality without women’s voices never be.

-- Laurie Brock

Florence Nightingale

The year is 1854……

Florence is tired. And cold. So bitterly, bitterly cold. She pulls her cape around her more tightly with her left arm as her right arm lifts the lamp that lights her way to the infirmary. Florence is lost in her thoughts. She has wondered, yet again, how she can help so many soldiers. They are all so sick. The pain and anguish of their plight sits heavy on her heart. In moments of doubt, she wonders how God can be found on a battlefield…..

Her boot sticks once again in the mud on her way. She is irritated by the inconvenience. Will the weather not even bend to help her improve conditions?

She sighs as she lifts her shoe and shakes off the debris. Tonight will be difficult. A new load of wounded has been delivered to the hospital and Florence knows it will be a long night as walks between the wounded, and teaches the young nurses to wash, wash, wash. Florence wonders how hand washing can be such a foreign concept. She wonders why fresh air, clean hands, and clean linens would be such a revolutionary idea to taking care of their fellow man. She wonders how to teach people the basic necessities of life that should be available to all. She wonders if her fellow doctors and nurses see the face of God in their patients as she does. Florence wonders how to make them see beyond the lumps of misery on their cots.

Florence takes a deep breath as she opens the doors to the ward. She knows from experience that the stench of death, decay, rotting flesh, old (and new) blood will steal her breath and make her stomach heave. Even an old nurse will never forget that unique sickly-sweet smell of skin that is no longer healthy. The skin that seems to turn first bright pink, then green, and finally black as it rots before their eyes. She is frustrated that the hospital does nothing to address the vermin that are attracted to death. She knows that it is vital to the repair of the body that those broken cells be nurtured in an environment that is clean both in air, surroundings, and supplies. Florence knows that in a room that is overflowing with with the sick and wounded, the environment is often the largest hill in her battle towards health.

As Florence proceeds, she sees John* lying next to the door. Florence turns to her first patient of the night, smiles, and shares a little of God in that singular moment with her patient, and says, “‘To be a fellow worker with God is the highest aspiration of which we can conceive man capable.’ Come, let’s get you well.”

*John represents one of many patients Florence served and is not to be confused with a specific individual. The writing here is the creative license of the author to best represent the times and environment in which Florence worked. Any errors are my own.

-- Anna Courie

Amelia Bloomer vs. Florence Nightingale

  • Florence Nightingale (72%, 4,628 Votes)
  • Amelia Bloomer (28%, 1,844 Votes)

Total Voters: 6,472

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Florence Nightingale statue: by Arthur George Walker, R.A. 1861-1936. 1910. Bronze. Part of the Crimean War Memorial located facing Waterloo Place at the junction of Lower Regent Street and Pall Mall, London.
Florence Nightingale painting: Florence in Scutari on 1st January 1855 writing letters for wounded soldiers of the Crimean War. Getty Images.


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166 comments on “Amelia Bloomer vs. Florence Nightingale”

  1. Today's the day to vote for devout Anglican, founder of modern nursing, leader of public health, role model and saint for all times, Florence Nightingale! #AlwaysaNurse

    1. I am a nurse, that does not mean I work as a nurse, as I do, but I AM a nurse! Go Flo!

      1. Couldn't agree more. When people ask me what I do for a living, I'm proud to say "I am a nurse!"
        Go with the Flo.

      2. Your reply brought tears to my eyes for I too AM a nurse. It is my calling, not just my vocation and Florernce Nightingale has been my mentor.

      3. I, too, AM a nurse! Our calling is not just a is who we are. Bless Florence for leading the way for modern nursing. But also blessings to Amelia for speaking out. Like others we know, they both PERSEVERED!!

    2. I found it was a hard decision between the two. Both were brave and angelic trailblazers. To be heard as women, in that male dominated time, shows you that God really raised them up!

    3. Even though both from the 19th century both of their ministries ring true for today. The sign in the bathroom says wash your hands. And to many lives are being cut short by alcohol and drugs.

      1. At my new job the sign (from the CDC no less) in the ladies' room says, "Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands."

    4. My mother was a nurse, awarded the Nightengale pin on graduation as the student who most embodied her spirit. She passed that spirit of caring onto me. As a medical student and resident I was accused of caring "too much" for my patients. I had to vote for Florence.

  2. For Amelia Bloomer and Florence Nightingale
    Tune: Englands’s Lane Hymnal ’82, 416, For the Beauty of the Earth

    Thanks for saints of courage bright
    Who give all they have for right.
    Thanks for those whose words and deeds
    Plant some faithful, holy seeds.
    So we honor those whose lives
    Teach of generous sacrifice.

    Saw the horrors that emerged
    From the alcoholic scourge.
    Saw the needs in women’s lives
    To make choices, use their minds.
    So Amelia wrote and dressed;
    Led to hope for those oppressed.

    Had a call to care and heal
    Soldiers, wounded, ill and weak.
    Church and state were quite aghast
    But strong Florence won at last.
    Nurses, patients, sing her praise
    For compassion, for lives saved.

    Neither known for public faith,
    Yet their lives were firmly based
    On the truth they found in prayer
    And in worship where their care
    For the needy, helpless ones
    Caught on holy fire again.

        1. Thank you, Diana. You are amazing. Diana, I have greatly enjoyed your ministry of poetic hymns. Will you please give the SEC permission to post your poems in a "2017 Lent Madness Hymns by Diana" post somewhere on the Lent Madness home page? Grace and Peace

          1. The hymns will be available in PDF format on the website of my community, The Community of the Transfiguration at The SEC has said they will include a link to that site. I'm grateful that you want to have the collection.

    1. This has become the best part of my Lent mornings. The hymns carry me throughout the day, reminding me of that "cloud of saints" that surrounds us. Let me also aspire to be such a witness. Thank you Diana.

      1. You can rest assured that you too have been serving the Lord. As with many here, they have become a new way to start my day. Thank you so much . And thanks be to God for blessing you with this talent.

    2. I am delighted to learn that your hymns will be available to us! I have looked forward to them every day during Lent Madness and am hoping to include them in our worship at St. Bartholomew's in Estes Park, Colorado. Thank you for the gift!

    3. Fantastic Diana. You have done such a lovely job of bring the saints to music and giving us a hymn tune to hum, whistle or sing each day of Lent Madness. Thanks and blessings to you from East Tennessee today.

    4. Beautiful words to hymn tune to honor Florence and Amelia. What great women of God.

    5. I look forward to your hymns each day. Your lyrics are so thoughtful and well done. They help me focus on these great lives and sometimes have helped my decision making.

  3. As a former hospital and hospice chaplain, my admiration for nurses is unbounded. Go Flo!

  4. Florence has been my hero since I was a child and read her biography. I cannot abandon her now. She did as much for women by example as Amelia along with making the medical world understand cleanliness and infection. I am grateful for that today.

  5. Both women deserve a vote and choosing one was hard however, I voted for Amelia because she was one of the first women to see the damaging effects of alcohol on families. I also admire her for choosing to reform the church from within instead of condemning it. Her voice for women shines through her example.

    1. Hi Bernie,
      Nice seeing you here. Have a wonderful day and I'm sure I'll see you later this week.

  6. I just hope that Franz wins the entire thing. He did things no one else did. I want him to win.

  7. Florence seems the obvious winner, but I voted for Amelia because Florence was one of the women she championed and because one of my grandmothers was active in the WCTU.

  8. Amelia for the win! Without the bold leaders of the Women's Rights Movement, half of us would not be where we are today. And I am grateful for their hard work! We still have far to go, and we know it. God bless Amelia Bloomer, Stanton, Anthony, Mott, Paul, and all of the others!

    1. It was so good that Amelia was put into the gridiron! I am sure at some point in the past I heard of her, but I had forgotten. And someone like Amelia should never be forgotten!
      Had it not been for the temperance movement, there would not at that time have been the triumph of votes for women, and without that push, who knows when women would have gotten the vote???? It took some kind of national crisis to get progress in these matters. Had there not been a temperance movement, and hence no votes for women at that time, there likely would have been no Frances Perkins, and God only knows what would have happened to the world without her innovative ideas which jump started the New Deal.

  9. When it comes right down to it, I must vote for the one who gave such a positive example to us for love, concern, cleanliness, and seeing Jesus in the sick, the broken, the wounded. Such a high calling. Who has not benifitted from a nurses' tender touch, soothing words, and voice of courage in the face of pain and debilitation? Florence for the Golden Halo!

  10. While I have the deepest respect for Florence and all nursrs, Amelia paved the way for women to be doctors, lawyers, and any else we want to be.

  11. I could never be in the medical field. Blessings on all health workers and thanks for the beautiful meditation of walking through the camp.

    I am struck by Amelia's presence in the trenches of daily life. She had to make those little decisions that are so easy to avoid in the midst of relationships and finances. And those choices make all the difference in being God's hands in this world. Amelia bloomed where she was planted!

    1. Never say never. God gives us the desires of our heart. After dropping out of Athletic Training as an extra curricular at U of Alabama because we were going to have to start learning anatomy-and I couldn't do that, I found my call to become an RN. It was scary, and my first class was Anatomy. With a 13 month at home and 5 wks in to my second pregnancy, I made an A. Even facing the cat dissection as the leader of our pair.
      I am now a Nurse Practitioner.
      God put the desire of Nursing in my heart, and while I have worked very hard for my achievements, I have and do believe the Spirit's work in me has been my guiding force to become a successful healthcare provider.

      1. Cheers from one NP to another! When you feel the Spirit's call, you can do anything. Go Flo!

  12. Amelia May be notable for her trailblazing but....the evidence that her faith was a factor is that she was Episcopalian and she hosted sewing circles in her home? I'm with Florence today. I found her writings on faith informing her work so challenging and inspiring. She has the saintly depth I'm looking for in a hero for today.

    1. Florence "has the saintly depth I'm looking for in a hero for today." Very well put.

    2. The evidence of Amelia's faith was that the sewing circles clothed the poor, as Jesus' requested. Please do not trivialize the ancient craft of community-weaving, it is the woman's way to learn to claim their own power. In Amelia's day, it was one of the few opportunities available to women to do so. The conversations during the circles also gave the women social support to speak their own minds, their own truths, experiencing the necessary solidarity to "step out of their place". Those sewing circles were cradles for the newly birthed in the women's movement. Amelia did much, much more besides her sewing circles, but without solidarity and learning leadership, the women's movement would have never developed the muscle necessary for women to step out of their place and into their rightful roles as leaders and as fully enfranchised citizens.

  13. Thanks for all the beautiful writing, today and throughout our season of Madness. Halos for the house!

  14. Oh, Anna - what a truly magnificent portrayal of Florence! I was right there with her, smelling, seeing, crying.

    1. Yes! I was all set to vote for Amelia until I read your post, Anna. You made Ms. Nightingale come alive.

  15. A very hard choice this morning. Both of these women are so inspirational. However, I chose Amelia because she did more to get women accepted as full members of church and society. Also for my Great Great Grandmother Mary Jane, who was also a temperance leader (though her two youngest daughters made bathtub gin during Prohibition!)

  16. "She wonders if her fellow doctors and nurses see the face of God in their patients as she does." Yes, Florence, I have experienced that too! This brought a flood of memories and tears.

    1. This line spoke to me as well, in part because I am giving a short lay meditation on Good Friday. The meditation is on St. Veronica. I will speak of not only seeing the very image of Jesus on the cloth that St. Veronica used to wipe his face, but more importantly to look for the very image of Jesus in the faces of all those around us.

  17. I love The Lady With The Lamp, but I had to stick with Amelia. I just think we're a lot alike in many ways. Come on, Amelia!

  18. Voted for Florence, as I thought I would, but Amelia's write-up very nearly changed my vote. Two women who worked hard against the grain of the expectations of their time, at personal cost to themselves, to make life better for others. Florence was perhaps more altruistic, and her work has had a massive impact on the health and wellbeing of millions since her time.

    But the Golden Halo tomorrow will be a tough one!

  19. I wonder if Episcopalian Amelia Bloomer ever partook of the Blood of Christ...

    1. Good question. The Eucharist was often only celebrated once a month or less back then. On the other hand taking only the bread is perfectly acceptable and equal to taking both elements or taking just the wine. (I can't find the page and I need to get to work but somewhere near the back of The BCP 1979 it explains that taking one element is equal to taking both.)

      1. You'll never get people who want gluten free bread/wafers to agree that taking one element is equal to taking both!

      2. Yes, the Eucharist was celebrated much less frequently, but I doubt if there would have been much acceptance in the 19th c. of the idea of receiving the bread only, except in a handful of Anglo-Catholic parishes, and I assume Ms. B. was on the other end of the spectrum.

    2. Since one element is as good as both, this would seem a bit irrelevant. Several friends of mine only take the wafer, and it is nobody's business.

      The founder of nursing has been internationally recognized; her name's a household word. Amelia is recognized as one of those who spearheaded the movement that made votes for women a reality. And she is virtually forgotten today. I think some of us think that this is a sad state of affairs.

      I hope Clara Barton doesn't get put in the rota for next year. Give some others a chance too!

  20. Throughout Lent Madness this year, I've been trying to vote consistently for specifically Anglican saints. This match-up is our final opportunity to choose between two such people. Though both women were no doubt influential in their time, I'm voting for Florence because of her writing on how her faith influenced her work. It's always important to know why you're doing what you're doing.

    1. Well said, Corban. Though I haven't been voting preferentially for Anglicans, I have preferred those in whose lives there was a clear connection between faith and life. I see that connection in Florence's life, but not so much in Amelia's. Florence gets my vote today. I haven't voted for either of them in past rounds.
      Go, Franz!

  21. What a difficult choice today!! Anna's beautiful post about Florence nearly swayed me! But, I am voting for unsung Amelia! I admire what she did to improve the lives of women.

    1. Though the long Night' of winter seems daunting, the Bloom of spring is eternal.
      We need you Amelia. This is your time! I'm rooting for a come-from-behind surprise win.

  22. This contest was my first real exposure to Florence Nightingale. I'm truly amazed by her. Pulling for her all the way.

  23. Florence Nightingale, in yet another tough choice. Last night's broadcast of "The Great War" showed me the scope of injury and death in war. "Overwhelming" can't begin to describe what medical personnel have to deal with. She was beyond heroic.

  24. The Hidden Figures story comes to mind: some speak up, go on marches, launch protests, while others 'simply' DO. Both are needed. But the comments suggest at least that Amelia's work lacked credit to Creator, while Florence was clear her doing relied upon God's strength.