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Mary Seacole statue finally unveiled

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Members of the Mary Seacole charity and statue Members of the Mary Seacole charity and the statue

A statue of war nurse Mary Seacole was unveiled in the garden of St Thomas' Hospital, London on 30 June. It is thought that this is the first statue in the UK dedicated to a named black woman.

The statue was revelead by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, deputy lietenant of Greater London following a series of speeches.

Many of the speakers including Baroness Benjamin spoke about how apt the timing of the statue was given the recent increase in hate crimes and that nurses could look to Mary Seacole as she overcame prejudice to carry out her nursing duties.

Lord Clive Soley, chair of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, said at the statue unveiling that in light of recent events this statue serves as a reminder that from 'Lands End to John O'Groats we have been successful at pulling together people of all backgrounds and the NHS has always been successful at doing that. We must not forget this important message'.

Mary Seacole was a nurse of Scottish/Jamaican descent who treated sick and wounded soldiers during the Crimean War in the 19th Century. Her contributions to nursing and overcoming prejudice have been widely praised and earned her the name Mother Seacole.

Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, said that today was a day of celebration and a call to action. 'This day reminds us of the indespensible role of BME nurses and staff across the NHS and it is a call to action to ensure that all staff are valued at a time of national debate. The success of the NHS requires the inclusion and support of all staff.'

This was echoed by chief nursing officer Jane Cummings who said that this statue was a 'wonderful' reminder of Mary Seacole's work and the fundraisers hard work. 'This statue celebrates the work of all BME nurses and healthcare workers that have ever worked in the NHS and this is a great way to show respect and gratitude for them.'

The bronze statue was created by sculptor Martin Jennings. More than £500,000 was raised through donations from thousands of individuals as well as a number of larger donors. It took 12 years of campaigning by the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal to raise the necessary funds for the creation of the statue.

An exhibition about the life and times of Mary Seacole and the creation of the statue will be open to the public from 2-5pm on Thursday 30 June and from 9am-5pm on Friday 1 July.

There were more than 300 guests in the private unveiling in the garden of St Thomas' hospital, overlooking the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament.

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