Mary Jane Seacole was a British-Jamaican nurse and businesswoman who set up the "British Hotel" behind the lines during the Crimean War. She described this as "a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers", and provided succour for wounded service men on the battlefield, and nursed many of them back to health. Coming from a tradition of Jamaican and West African "doctresses", Seacole displayed "compassion, skills and bravery while nursing soldiers during the Crimean War", through the use of herbal remedies.
Mary Seacole relied on her skill and experience as a healer and a female doctor from Jamaica. Schools of nursing in England were only set up after the Crimean war, the first being the Florence Nightingale Training School, in 1860 at St Thomas' Hospital in London. Seacole was arguably the first nurse practitioner.
Hoping to assist with nursing the wounded on the outbreak of the Crimean War, Seacole applied to the War Office to be included among the nursing contingent but was refused, so she travelled independently and set up her hotel and tended to the battlefield wounded. She became popular among service personnel, who raised money for her when she faced destitution after the war.
A 200-page autobiographical account of her travels was published in July 1857 by James Blackwood as Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, the first autobiography written by a black woman in Britain. In the work Seacole deals with the first 39 years of her life in one short chapter. She then expends six chapters on her few years in Panama, before using the following 12 chapters to detail her exploits in Crimea. She avoids mention of the names of her parents and precise date of birth. In the first chapter, she talks about how her practice of medicine began on animals, such as cats and dogs. Most of the animals caught diseases from their owners, and she would cure them with homemade remedies. Within the book, Mrs. Seacole discusses how when she returned from the Crimean War she was poor, whereas others in her same position returned to England rich. Mrs. Seacole shares the respect she gained from the men in the Crimean War. The soldiers would refer to her as "mother" and would ensure her safety by personally guarding her on the battlefield.