The Black Business Woman
"I am not ashamed to confess for the gratification is, after all, a selfish one that I love to be of service to those who need a woman's help. And wherever the need arises on whatever distant shore I ask no greater or higher privilege than to minister to it."—Mary Seacole
Mary Seacole was a woman of Jamaican origin. She was of mixed race, with a white father and a mother of colour therefore she was born a free person. She did not identify herself as a Black person. Seacole gained recognition for being a great businesswoman, author, and heroine of the Crimean War. She was also a wild adventurer during the 19th century. She wrote a book based on her travels in Panama, where she managed a men’s store, and also her experiences in the Crimean War, where she ran a catering service for the officers.
In June 1852, Panama suffered a massive cholera outbreak where a great number of people perished and work came to a standstill. Seacole, unfortunately, suffered from the illness but successfully managed to bounce back to health. She helped to treat cholera patients through special remedies like mustard emetics (which induced vomiting), warm poultices, mustard plasters on the stomach and the back, and mercury chloride. A year later, she returned to England right before the declaration of the Crimean war. By the time she applied for a position to become a nurse, she was turned down because she lacked hospital qualifications and most likely because of her colour. After facing rejection from becoming a hospital nurse, she decided to start up a business that greatly thrived.
She was awarded the Order of Merit posthumously by the government of Jamaica and celebrated as a “Black Briton” in the United Kingdom.
On the 14th of May, 1881, Seacole’s life was cut short at the age of 76 as she suffered from a stroke. She had gained massive wealth and she left most of it to her sister living in Jamaica.
We hope you enjoyed this article. Next week, we shall be looking at the life of William Kamkwamba.