Florence Nightingale Comments on Women

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I think she is 110% right.

The Life of Florence Nightingale (1913)[edit]

Quotes from The Life of Florence Nightingale (1913) by Edward Tyas Cook

Let each person tell the truth from his own experience.

  • I have read half your book thro’ and I am immensely charmed by it. But some things I disagree with and more I do not understand. This does not apply to the characters, but to your conclusions, e.g. you say “women are more sympathetic than men.” Now if I were to write a book out of my experience I should begin Women have no sympathy. Yours is the tradition. Mine is the conviction of experience. I have never found one woman who has altered her life by one iota for me or my opinions. Now look at my experience of men. A statesman, past middle age, absorbed in politics for a quarter of a century, out of sympathy with me, remodels his whole life and policy — learns a science the driest, the most technical, the most difficult, that of administration, as far as it concerns the lives of men, — not, as I learnt it, in the field from stirring experience, but by writing dry regulations in a London room by my sofa with me.This is what I call real sympathy.
  • Now just look at the degree in which women have sympathy — as far as my experience is concerned. And my experience of women is almost as large as Europe. And it is so intimate too. I have lived and slept in the same bed with English Countesses and Prussian Bauerinnen [farm laborers]. No Roman Catholic Supérieure [president of a French university system known for their diverse, eclectic teaching methods] has ever had charge of women of the different creeds that I have had. No woman has excited “passions” among women more than I have. Yet I leave no school behind me. My doctrines have taken no hold among women. … No woman that I know has ever appris à apprendre [learned to learn]. And I attribute this to want of sympathy. You say somewhere that women have no attention. Yes. And I attribute this to want of sympathy. … It makes me mad, the Women’s Rights talk about “the want of a field” for them — when I know that I would gladly give £500 a year [roughly $50,000 a year in 2008] for a Woman Secretary. And two English Lady Superintendents have told me the same thing. And we can’t get one.
    • Letter to Madame Mohl (13 December 1861)
  • In one sense, I do believe I am “like a man,” as Parthe [the writer’s sister] says. But how? In having sympathy. … Women crave for being loved, not for loving. They scream out at you for sympathy all day long, they are incapable of giving any in return, for they cannot remember your affairs long enough to do so. … They cannot state a fact accurately to another, nor can that other attend to it accurately enough for it to become information. Now is not all this the result of want of sympathy?
    • Letter to Madame Mohl (13 December 1861)
  • People often say to me, You don’t know what a wife and mother feels. No, I say, I don’t and I’m very glad I don’t. And they don’t know what I feel. … I am sick with indignation at what wives and mothers will do of the most egregious selfishness. And people call it all maternal or conjugal affection, and think it pretty to say so. No, no, let each person tell the truth from his own experience.
    • Letter to Madame Mohl (13 December 1861)
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