The handwritten note from 1872, which was discovered in near-pristine condition at the University of Chichester, describes the nursing pioneer’s poor health following her return from the Crimean War.
In the letter, a 62-year-old Nightingale gives her full support to a campaign led by the Suffragettes and activist Louisa Hubbard to create a female teacher-training college on the south coast – now the university.
The missive, which bears the heroine’s distinctive signature, is to be displayed in the university’s new school of nursing and allied health, which opened last year.
Head of the school and registered nurse, Dr Nita Muir, said: ‘The letter epitomises all that Nightingale stood for – boundless compassion for the right causes and championing social reform.
‘It is a remarkable find and is completely unspoiled, despite spending the last 140 years in an old scrapbook which belonged to the famed women’s rights campaigner Louisa Hubbard.’
The University of Chichester first opened to students in 1840, then named Bishop Otter college after its founder, but subsequently changed to training women in 1873 after the success of the campaign by Ms Hubbard and the Suffragettes.
Nightingale, who was born in 1820, is known as the mother of modern nursing with her revolutionary reforms which made hospitals more organised and cleaner.
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The Lady of the Lamp, as she is known, writes in the discovered letter sent to Ms Hubbard: ‘In the crush and drive of ever increasing and pressing business and of ever increasing illness (I am entirely a prisoner to my room) – will you excuse a too thoro reply to your questions?
‘To supply some of our school mistresses from among poor gentlewomen with the view of carrying arising rustic young girls and town and village children better family habits by way of example in one of the most useful plans I know – and will be of inconceivable advantage, if sensibly carried out, not only to the schools but to the gentlewomen – I hope, trust and believe that it will succeed.
The letter will be unveiled at an event marking International Nursing Day on May 12.
To book a space visit chi.ac.uk/event/nursing-in-chichester-then-and-now.