History of Florence Nightingale for Kids & Families

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a soldier in a war. But you’re not on the battlefield. Instead, you’re lying in bed recovering from injuries you received in battle. The room is pitch black and it’s been a long night, and you are very uncomfortable. You are sad and not feeling well. You miss your family back at home and wish you were not sick. But suddenly, you hear a door open and you turn and look down the hall. There’s light from a lamp and it’s moving toward you. You smile because you know who it is. A woman, a nurse, stops by you and puts her hand on your shoulder. “How are you feeling,” she asks. “Can I get you anything?” She gives you a drink of water. “Let me know if you need anything else,” she says and then walks away to attend to another soldier. You felt lonely and sad but now you feel much better, thanks to the woman who would become one of the most famous nurses of all time, the Lady with the Lamp, Florence Nightingale. 

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820. Her parents were English, which means from England, but at the time they were living in the city of Florence, Italy. And this is where she got her name, Florence! The Nightingales were a very wealthy family. Her father was a London banker. Florence and her sister had a very easy, privileged life. Growing up they got to travel all over Europe as a family. Imagine how interesting that would have been! After their travels, they settled in their home country, England. There they had two homes, a summer house in Derbyshire and a winter house in Hampshire. With the homes came servants who took care of them and all of the housekeeping. Like I said, a pretty easy life for the girls and the parents who had plenty of money to live in comfort.

During the 1800s most girls didn’t get a great education. But William Nightingale wanted the best for his daughters, so he took a special interest in their learning and taught them various subjects like history, geography, and literature. Florence was a very gifted child and soaked up everything her father taught her. Even at a young age with lots of practice, she could speak in several languages: French, German, Latin, Greek, Italian, and Latin. 

In the time Florence lived, called the Victorian era, women from wealthy families were expected to only handle housework (with the servants doing most of the work) and host guests. They weren’t supposed to look for jobs or earn money. Florence saw this but wanted something different. She wanted to work for herself and earn money for herself. She wasn’t satisfied with the way the world was. She wanted to find her purpose in life and believed there was more for her than simply running the home and taking care of guests. At an early age, she decided her calling in life would be to help others, to ease their suffering. She loved taking care of sick pets and servants. Being a nurse seemed like a natural fit for desire to help others.

So Florence mustered up the courage and went to her parents to tell them she wanted to be a nurse. They were very upset and refused to let her do it. They told her she wasn’t allowed to go to nursing school. In their minds, this was very inappropriate for a woman of her wealth and status. Like I said, it was a very different time and Florence was going against what was normal in her day.


But do you think Florence just went along with it? Nope. She was determined to become a nurse so she could help others.  Finally, after a lot of persuasion, her father gave in and she packed up her bags and moved to Germany to go to nursing school. The school was called the Institution of Protestant Deaconesses. There she learned all the important skills to take care of other’s medical needs. Florence was a fast learner, so she made quick progress and after moving back to England soon became the head of a hospital in London. 

In 1854, a war broke out between the countries of Turkey and Russia. Did you know there was a country called Turkey? It’s a big country on the Mediterranean Sea between Europe and the Middle East. The war became Russia and Turkey later became known as the Crimean War. Since England, Russia and France were allies, British soldiers were sent to fight in the war. To help sick and injured soldiers, a hospital was set up in Scutari, Turkey. And sadly due to the war, many injured soldiers ended up in the hospital. But the soldiers weren’t being taken care of properly. And this means soldiers who didn’t receive the proper care, often did not survive. Leaders at the time wondered what to do and someone suggested just the person to help – Nurse extraordinaire, Florence Nightingale! Florence was a friend of the Minister of War’s wife and he requested her to accept the job.

So, Florence, not being one to waste time, quickly went to work assembling a team of 34 nurses and all of the supplies they’d need to help the soldiers waiting in the hospital far away in Turkey. 

When Florence and the nurses arrived in Turkey, they were shocked at what they saw! The hospital was so overcrowded that soldiers had to sleep on the floor. And it was very unhygienic, which means it was unclean and it’s very important that a hospital is kept clean because if not germs can flourish and make sick soldiers even sicker. There were puddles of drain water everywhere — and worst of all rats! It was no wonder all of the soldiers were getting infected!

Florence knew if the soldiers were to get better, the hospital would have to change. Right away. With money from England, she quickly improved the conditions. She ordered new equipment, cleaned up the rooms, and even set up the kitchen to serve better quality food. All of her training as a nurse was being put to good use to save the lives of the soldiers and improve their quality of care. She was a true nurse who properly cared for her suffering patients. 

You’d think with all of this busyness, Florence would just want to rest at night. But at all hours, Florence kept an eye on her patients. At night she used to make her rounds, checking on each and every soldier. She used a lamp to light her way and the soldiers named her “the Lady with the Lamp”. Imagine if you were a soldier suffering and could not sleep at night. Imagine what it would feel like to see that lamplight coming down the hall and know that someone cared for you and was checking in on you. This is the kind of care Florence gave! She also wrote letters to the home of the soldiers who were unable to do it themselves and found ways to entertain them.

Thanks to Florence and other nurse’s hard work and selfless service, the conditions in the hospital barracks started to change. The mortality rate, which is the number of deaths in a certain period of time, decreased by two percent. This means that more and more soldiers were starting to survive their injuries!

This was such exciting news that papers back in London started writing articles about Florence Nightingale. People started calling her a heroine. Even the Queen of England wrote her a thank you letter!

After the Crimean War ended, Florence’s work did not. After seeing how poor the conditions were in Turkey, she set out on her new mission to make hospitals better across the empire. She met up with important figures such as Queen Victoria to discuss her ideas. Eventually, the army started training doctors and nurses to take care of soldiers with the care and concern Florence would give them.

To honor her service, the government decided to create a fund as a token of their appreciation and gratitude. They called it the Nightingale Fund and through it a big sum of money was raised and gifted to Florence to use however she pleased. In 1860, Florence set up her own institute called The Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London

The school gave hope to women who wanted to work and service and earn their own living. It made training and schooling more normal for women in their society. It was an excellent school, one of the first to be developed based on accurate scientific methods. In fact, it was so advanced that most of the techniques that Florence developed in the school are still in practice today! And to this day, she is considered one of the founders of nursing training. 

Florence believed that nursing starts from the home. With this, she set up various training camps in smaller neighborhoods so the women of lower class could learn from her. This improved the level of health in poor families immensely. Not only was Florence a full-time professional nurse, she also published many books on nursing and healthcare. Her most famous writing is the Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not which is the best guidebook for household nursing. It has detailed step-by-step procedures on how to best tend to a patient at home.

To honor her service, there are plaques and statues of Florence Nightingale all around the globe. Three statues of Florence are in Derby, England alongside numerous plaques. From Los Angeles in the USA to Andhra Pradesh in India and in Kawanishi in Japan, various countries have put up statues in respect of The Lady with the Lamp.

Spend some time thinking about how Florence lived her life and the change for good she made in the lives of others. Do you like caring for others? What does it feel like after you help someone? It feels good inside, doesn’t it? Florence saw suffering around her and did whatever she could to help. For you, this might start small by helping a sibling when they are trying to tie their shoe or make their breakfast. Or it might mean helping your parents when they are sick — remember how much they helped you when you were sick! In fact, just the other day I wasn’t feeling well and my kids brought me some food and water and it made me feel much better. Next time you’re given the opportunity to serve others, remember Florence Nightingale and the change she made in the lives of others one individual at a time!

The History of Marie Curie for Kids

Imagine you are in Europe. The year is 1895 and you live in Poland. Life is changing quickly at this time. Many people have been moving to cities for work or to America to start a new life. But you are a happy child, loving life with your four older siblings. Your father is a math and science teacher and from him, you have come to love math and science as well. However, you do not yet realize that one day you will become one of the most famous scientists in the world. You are Marie Curie.

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867. She was the youngest daughter of five children. When she was born, her name was Marie Sklodowska. She changed her name to Marie Curie later when she got married.

Marie had a happy child and she became interested in science at a young age. She was very smart and got good grades in school. Sadly when Marie was only 10, her mother died. She had become sick with tuberculosis. 

Marie was raised by her father and became more and more interested in math and physics. Physics is the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. Even though Marie got the top grades in her high school, she was not able to go to university when she graduated. The reason was because the university in Warsaw was a men’s-only university at the time.

Marie was very disappointed, but she continued to learn about the subjects she loved however she could. One way was through a secret school that taught university type courses at different locations around the city. Marie’s older sister Bronya also loved learning. Together the two girls dreamed of going to America to study at university there.

However Marie and Bronya were not rich. So they could not pursue this dream of studying in America together. To pursue means to seek to accomplish a goal over a long period of time. Despite this problem, Marie and Bronya did not give up in their hope of going to university. The two girls made a deal with each other. They would attend university in Europe. However, they would not go together. They decided that Marie would work and pay for Bronya to live and attend university in Europe. Afterwards, Bronya would work and pay for Marie to attend. 

For five years, from the age of 19-24, Marie worked as a tutor and nanny for children. She sent most of the money she made to her sister. And in her spare time, Marie would study and read about science and math. 

When she was 24, Marie moved to Paris and started attending university at the Sorbonne, a famous university in France. Marie received money every month from Bronya, however, it was not enough to live and eat well. Marie mostly ate bread and butter. Because she was not eating a healthy diet, Marie got sick often. 

Despite these hardships, Marie finished a master’s degree in physics and a degree in math. 

Shortly after Marie graduated from the Sorbonne, she met a man named Pierre Curie. Pierre was a professor of physics. A professor is a teacher and researcher in a college or university. Marie and Pierre were introduced by a friend of Marie’s in order for Marie to try to find lab space for an experiment she was going to conduct. 

Marie and Pierre fell in love and they were married in 1895. They both loved science and physics. They worked together investigating radioactivity. Radioactivity is a process in which parts of matter break down and create energy.

In 1898, the Curies discovered two new chemical elements, polonium and radium. This was an amazing discovery…

They were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.

In 1906, Pierre had an unfortunate accident. He was knocked down by a carriage while crossing the road and he died. 

Marie took over his work after his death, including his teaching post at the Sorbonne. In doing so, she became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. She devoted herself to continuing the work that she and Pierre had started together.

In 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry. 

The work that the Curies did was important in the development of x-ray technology. X-rays are electromagnetic wave of high energy and very short wavelength. They are able to pass through many materials that light cannot. X-rays are used for surgeries and other medical procedures, as they are able to help create images of what is inside of our bodies. Doctors can then use these X-ray images to figure out what is wrong with someone and where to operate, if necessary. 

During World War I, Marie helped ambulances have x-ray machines. She also volunteered with the ambulances and drove to the front lines to help wounded soldiers. 

Marie became the head of the International Red Cross’s radiological service. The International Red Cross is an organization dedicated to protecting victims of international wars.

In the 1920s, when Marie was in her 50s, she developed leukaemia, which is a type of cancer.  This was due to her exposure to radiation from her research. She died on July 4, 1934.

Marie Curie’s determination and hard work during her lifetime brought about amazing scientific developments that impact us all still today. As a woman physicist, she was a trailblazer in her field and faced backlash for her participation. But Marie was strong and determined. And she persisted in doing the work that she loved anyways. As a result, our medical and scientific world was changed. 

Is there something that you are passionate about? With hard work and determination, like Marie Curie, you can also make a difference in the world and in the things you are interested in. The key is to carry on despite times that are hard or backlash from others that you face to your efforts. If you believe in something and want to make a difference, you can do it!

The History of Nurses of World War 1 for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are on a battlefield. You are in a trench with other soldiers waiting for the battle to begin. Night has fallen and you and the others are very cold. You look around at the other soldiers. They look nervous, too. Everyone knows the enemy isn’t far away.  Above the trench the sky is filled with dark smoke and small airplanes in battle. You tighten your grip on your rifle. 

In the distance you hear a loud “boom.” You duck into the trench as an enemy round explodes above you. You fall over and look at your arm, and realize you’ve been hurt. Others soldiers on your team have been hurt too. You close your eyes and lie back wondering how you are going to survive. Soon someone lifts you up and carries you to a nearby hospital. You lie on a clean bed with your eyes closed, just hoping you will be alright. Then you hear a kind voice and open your eyes. It’s a woman, a nurse wearing white uniform with a red cross on the front of her hat. “Everything will be alright,” she says, lying a warm cloth on your forehead. She looks at the wound on your arm and starts to work cleaning it. Then she bandages it and gives you a drink of water and some medicine. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she says. “Don’t worry, you’re in good hands now.” You feel relaxed and happy that someone is taking care of you.

All over the world, nurses play an important role in health care.  They help take care of people when they are sick or injured.  Their job can be very difficult and stressful.  But nurses are brave and they work very hard to take care of their patients.  This is true now and was true in the old days as well, and especially during World War 1.

Nursing has always been a difficult job. But it was especially difficult and dangerous work during World War 1. World War 1 was a war between Germany and the allied forces of England, France and America. Both sides had allies, or friends, so many countries were involved in the war. This is why it was called a “world war.” 

Most war nurses were ordinary women that signed up for the job because they wanted to help their country during the war.  Many women became nurses after losing someone special to them, such as a brother or their husband. Some women decided that instead of just being sad, they were going to take action and help out at the battlegrounds.  This was one way that they could help others who were similar to the people that they lost.  It was one way that they could help and also heal their sadness.

During WW1 many nurses didn’t have an education, so they couldn’t write.  Because they couldn’t write there’s not a lot of information about what actually happened to them. Those who told the stories of these nurses amazed others, and so their stories spread and likely changed, sort of like a game of telephone. This is how legends, stories that aren’t always true, often start.  

When the war started in 1914, everyone thought it was going to be short.  Women were expected to wait at home patiently for the men to return.  They were told to, “keep the home fires burning.”  This was a common expression at the time.  Some poorer women went to work in factories. These are a few reasons there weren’t many women at the battlefields to help the wounded soldiers.

But as more young men started dying, more young women wanted to help out.  American women, British women and women from other friendly countries joined in to help.  When women started signing up to become military nurses, they would go to a nursing service near where they lived and ask to join.  These were often in cities where they didn’t live, so they would have to leave home to get training.  They got some basic nursing training and after that, they were sent to the war.  This meant that most of the nurses at the battlefields during WW1 were untrained and therefore, didn’t know a lot about medicine.  That is very different than today, where nurses study at universities and colleges and get clinical training before they are allowed to practice.  At the time of WW1, there were some trained nurses, but it was still very difficult, since most of them had never worked with soldiers before.

Some of the first women to go to the war were wealthy and had the money to start military hospitals.  The most famous of the women that opened and ran a military hospital was the Duchess of Sutherland from England.  Her nickname was Meddlesome Millie, because at the time, some people did not think that women should get jobs and work outside of the home.  They did not want women to be nurses and they resisted the change that was happening.  “Resisted” means to try to stop something from happening.  

But the Duchess of Sutherland and other women like her continued to run their military hospitals and train other women to be nurses.  As more military hospitals were set up and the war continued, more and more women signed up to become nurses. With all their hearts they wanted to do what they could to help. 

In 1915, there was a large battle in Belgium in an area that was very important to both sides in the war. In this battle a lot of men got hurt or killed.  It was the first time an army used poison gas to against the other side, and many, many men were hurt. After this British and American armies started to let more women join the military as nurses.

Today when we see pictures of nurses from that time, with white hats and red crosses on their uniforms, we think of the work as being very clean and exciting.  But in reality, it was very tiring and sometimes disgusting work.  They were very brave women, but it was not a job that got a lot of attention. Nurses worked very hard every day and it was very stressful for them. Also, most women thought World War 1 was going to be short. Instead the war dragged on and on, but the nurses kept helping for many years. 

There were a lot of difficult things that nurses had to deal with at war that they did not have to deal with at hospitals back home.  Soldiers often suffered bullet wounds which were difficult to treat. There were many soldiers who were scared or sad, so the nurses not only fixed their wounds but also comforted them and did what they could to keep them calm and happy. 

Towards the end of the war, a new invention came out to help the soldiers. This invention helped a patient who was out of blood get more blood from someone else. When the healthy person donated the blood, it was shared with the sick person by using a long tube. This invention is still used today and is called a blood transfusion. During the war transfusions were used often and saved many people’s lives. 

When the war ended in 1918, most war nurses left the war service and went home. But back home there were not very many men still alive and well.  Many had died or gotten hurt in the war.  Because of this, many women replaced men in jobs and other roles usually held by men.  These women were very important in helping make things work again. Let us always remember and be grateful to those women and men who sacrificed so much and put their lives at risk to protect their countries and each other.Have you ever thought about the ways that you are brave?  Do you think that bravery is something that develops in people when times are tough?  Or is bravery something that we can all practice?  Like the nurses of WW1, we can all show bravery and try our best to being good to each other.  Helping others when it is needed and taking care of each other is one of the most important things we can all do.

Clara Barton For Kids

When was the last time you helped someone? Did it feel like it was very important? How did you feel at the time? Most people go through their lives performing acts of service at one time or another. Clara Barton was a special person who devoted her entire life to helping others, and tried to be of service in whatever she did – in her family, in her work, even on the battlefield of the American Civil War!

Clarissa Barton was born Christmas Day in 1821.

She started going to school when she was just three years old, and she was very good at reading and spelling. Clara only had one friend because she was so shy and timid.

At the age of ten, her brother David fell from the roof of a barn and hurt his head very badly. Clara wanted to help take care of him, so she learned how to give him his medicine, and how to place leeches on his body – which was a typical medical practice at the time. Even after the doctors gave up on treating her brother, Clara continued to help care for him, and he eventually got better. 

While Clara was growing up, her family moved in order to help a family member take care of their house and farm. Clara was happy and persistent in offering her help, which included repairing and repainting the house that Clara’s family lived in. Clara loved to play with her cousins, and loved activities such as horseback riding. 

As a teenager, Clara’s parents encouraged her to become a schoolteacher as a way to help her overcome her shyness. Clara obtained her teaching certificate and was a very successful teacher, able to handle even the most rambunctious and energetic children. Clara was asked to open a free public school in New Jersey. The school became very successful, and Clara would teach classes to over 600 people. 

Clara later moved to Washington, D.C. and worked in the U.S. Patent Office as a clerk, helping to file and keep track of patents. Clara was the first woman to receive a clerkship in the federal government, and her salary was the same as the male clerks in the Patent Office. 

While she worked at the Patent Office, the American Civil War began. In The Civil War the Northern States and the Southern States fought over whether the nation should be divided or stay together. During the war many soldiers were hurt in battle. Clara went to the railroad station in Washington D.C. to help nurse the wounded men who had been transported there. She brought them the clothing, food, and supplies they needed to recover from their injuries. As she worked with the men, Clara learned how to store and distribute medical supplies. She worked hard to help the soldiers feel cared for; she often read books to them, helped them write letters to their families, and talked to them to help keep them in good spirits. Clara believed this is what she was meant to do in life, andbegan to look for ways  to help the soldiers fighting in the war. In 1862 in Virginia she saw the awful fighting first hand and helped to care for wounded soldiers near several other battles, including Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. In order to gather supplies, Clara even placed an ad in the newspaper, and people in the area helped to donate supplies to take care of the wounded soldiers. Even when supplies weren’t available, Clara still did everything she could to help. For example,at one battle where they didn’t have any bandages, the wounded were treated using corn-husks instead. The soldiers nicknamed Clara ‘the Angel of the Battlefield’ for the help that she gave them. 

Clara was known for helping all soldiers who needed aid, even if they fought for the other side, which in this case was the South. She said ‘I may be compelled to face danger, but never fear it, and while out soldiers can stand and fight, I can stand and feed and nurse them.’ Clara was brave and helped soldiers even while battles were taking place around her; while she was tending one soldier a bullet from the fighting tore through the sleeve of her dress!

After the war ended, Clara discovered that the relatives of soldiers who had died in the war were sending letters to the War Department trying to find their loved ones. These letters were going unanswered because the soldiers had been buried in unmarked graves, which meant that no one knew what had happened to them or where they were buried. Clara wrote to Abraham Lincoln asking for permission to start responding to the families and trying to locate their missing loved ones. President Lincoln said yes, and she began running the Office of Missing Soldiers. Clara Barton and her assistants wrote over forty thousand replies to letters, helping to locate more than twenty-two thousand missing men! During the summer of 1865, Clara helped to find, identify and properly bury thirteen thousand individuals who had died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp. She would continue to work with the Office of Missing Soldiers for four more years, helping to identify and bury twenty thousand more Union soldiers and ensuring that their graves were marked. 

Clara gave lectures around the United States about her experiences during the war, and drew large crowds when she spoke. After her speaking tour, a doctor suggested that she travel, to rest and remove herself from the physically and mentally demanding work she had done. She decided to travel to Europe.

While in Europe, Clara Barton worked with the organization known as the International Red Cross. Clara helped to prepare military hospitals and gave aid to the Red Cross Society during the Franco-Prussian War. She helped poor people in Strasbourg find work after the Siege of Paris, and was put in charge of distributing supplies to the people of Paris. Because of her work, Clara was given the Golden Cross of Baden and the Prussian Iron Cross. 

She was so inspired that she began to petition for an American branch of the International Red Cross to be created. Clara argued  that not only could the American Red Cross be helpful in war, but it could also give relief and aid during natural disasters like earthquakes, forest fires, and hurricanes. It was founded in 1881, with its first local branch in New York, and Clara served as the first president of the American branch. They built their headquarters in Washington, D.C. near the White House. She was able to help with  such disasters as the Johnstown Flood in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889 (at the time one of the worst disasters in American history) and the Galveston Flood in 1900. 

Clara continued to help the Red Cross across the world  as well. In 1897 she sailed to Constantinople and helped to open the first American International Red Cross headquarters in Turkey. She would also take several trips to Armenia to provide relief and aid, and she worked in hospitals in Cuba.

After Clara resigned as the president of the American Red Cross, she founded the National First Aid Society, an organization meant to start local first aid programs.

To this day The American National Red Cross continues to be an important part of our country. They provide emergency assistance, disaster relief, and disaster preparedness education throughout the United States. 

Clara continued to give speeches and lectures about her work after she left the Red Cross organization. She published a book about her life called The Story of My Childhood in 1907. She would pass away five years later after contracting pneumonia. 

The work that Clara Barton did to help others and the example she set of continuous service continues to be an inspiration. In 1948, a postage stamp with a portrait of Clara and an image of the American Red Cross symbol was created. Clara Barton was inducted in the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1973. 

The next time you see someone who needs help, remember Clara Barton and her example of service. There are always opportunities to help others, large and small, and our acts of service can help others see the importance of giving aid and being helpful however possible.