Florence Nightingale is an icon today because of her contributions to the evolution of nursing, but more importantly to sanitation. During the Crimean War (like the Civil War), the chief cause of death was unsanitary conditions leading to infectious diseases. In fact, ten times more soldiers died from typhus, typhoid fever, cholera and dysentery than from battle wounds.
Thankfully, the discovery of bacteria by Pasteur and hygienic principles instituted by the nurses in war torn areas, for example, improved conditions and chances for recovery of the wounded.
Women were in the hospital “trenches” helping the stricken soldiers survive their wounds from the battlefield.
Conditions at the makeshift hospital were fatal to soldiers because of overcrowding, defective sewers and lack of ventilation. Six months after Nightingale’s arrival, the British government sent out a Sanitary Commission to Scutari in March 1855. Sewers were flushed out, ventilation improved, and lives saved. This piece of history bears repeating; women have made a tremendous difference.