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Mary Seacole statue unveiled

Posted on Thursday 30 June 2016

Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE unveiled the statue.

Earlier today (Thursday 30 June), a new statue honouring the Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole was unveiled in the gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital.

Sculptor Martin Jennings’ striking work is believed to be the first statue in the UK dedicated to a named black woman.

The official unveiling took place after 12 years of campaigning by the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal. More than £500,000 was raised through donations. Last November Chancellor George Osborne announced that £240,000 of LIBOR banking fines would be donated to the Appeal to pay for the installation.

More than 300 guests – including Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry VC, NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens and England’s Chief Nursing Officer Jane Cummings – attended the event.

The statue was unveiled by Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London, who was flanked by nurses from Guy’s and St Thomas’ and the armed forces.                

An exhibition about the life and times of Mary Seacole, and the creation of the statue, is open to the public until 5pm today (Thursday 30 June) and from 9am-5pm tomorrow (Friday 1 July) in the gardens of St Thomas’ Hospital.

Speaking at the unveiling event, Sir Hugh Taylor, Chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said: “One of the reasons that the statue is sited here is that from these gardens it overlooks the Houses of Parliament. In that sense, today’s unveiling could not be more timely.

“Perhaps there has never been a time in our recent history when it has been more important to celebrate and stand up for difference. Mary Seacole was different. She was not and is not defined by what she was not, or by what she did or did not do when compared with anyone else.

“She is being honoured today for herself, for her contribution which has become her legacy. As she stands proud – overlooking Parliament – she bears witness to what it means to be different in our society and the need to recognise it and honour it.”

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