A Short Biography of Mary Seacole

By Tim Lambert

Mary Seacole was a famous Jamaican woman who lived in the 19th century. Mary Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. (At that time Jamaica was part of the British Empire). Her father was a white Scottish soldier in the British army. Her mother was of mixed race. Her mother ran a boarding house for army officers and their families. Mary’s mother made her own herbal medicines and Mary learned from her.

Twice when she was a teenager Mary visited London. Then in 1836, she married Edwin Horatio Seacole. Unfortunately, he soon died. Afterward, Mary ran a boarding house. In 1850 she tried to treat people in Kingston suffering from cholera. She then went to Panama to help her brother run a hotel. She tried to help people suffering from cholera there too. However, Mary eventually returned to Jamaica. In 1853 she comforted people dying of yellow fever.

The Crimean War was fought between 1853 and 1856. During that war, Mary became a sutler (a person who sells provisions to soldiers). In 1855 she sailed to England because she was worried about her investments in gold mining. She went to London to attend to her gold mining stocks. Mary applied to be a nurse but she was rejected. However, she traveled to Crimea and ran a bar and restaurant for British officers called the British Hotel. She also sold provisions to soldiers. Seacole never actually worked in a hospital but she sometimes carried bandages, lint, and needles and she treated wounded soldiers returning from the front line.

When the war ended in 1856 Mary returned to England. In 1857 she wrote a book called Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole. Mary Seacole died on 14 May 1881 at Paddington, London. She was buried in Kensal Green Roman Catholic cemetery.

In 1991 Mary Seacole was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit.

Jamaica with its flag