Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment – by Rob Burns

In 1932 the United States government sanctioned the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments amongst the African American community, under the pretence of giving them free health care, when in fact they were injecting them with Syphilis and leaving it untreated to see how it developed.

Even if you can forgive the beginnings of this, this type of Nazi experiment should have ended in shame at the end of WWII. It did not and carried on until 1972. At the beginning these Black men who were assured free health care and were told the experiment would last 6 weeks, it eventually came to an end after 40 years. This event was reported by reporter Jean Heller.

No investigation considered until 1994 and in

1997 Bill Clinton apologised with these words:

“What was done cannot be undone. But we can end the silence. We can stop turning our heads away. We can look at you in the eye and finally say on behalf of the American people, what the United States government did was shameful, and I am sorry… To our African American citizens, I am sorry that your federal government orchestrated a study so clearly racist”

The Study in Detail

Maya Angelou’s Poem “On the Pulse of Morning”

Report by Vann R. Newkirk II – A generation of bad blood

The Tuskegee Study is perhaps the most enduring wound in American health science. Known officially as the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, the 40-year experiment run by Public Health Service officials followed 600 rural black men in Alabama with syphilis over the course of their lives, refusing to tell patients their diagnosis, refusing to treat them for the debilitating disease, and actively denying some of them treatment. Whistleblowers brought an end to the incredibly unethical study in 1972, finally prompting the development of what would become modern medical ethics. But the lives of those black men and many of their families were mostly ruined; many men died from complications of syphilis, and several of their wives and children contracted the disease.

Research has long suggested that the ill effects of the Tuskegee Study extend beyond those men and their families to the greater whole of black culture. Black patients consistently express less trust in their physicians and the medical system than white patients, are more likely to believe medical conspiracies, and are much less likely to have common, positive experiences in health-care settings. These have all been connected to misgivings among black patients about Tuskegee and America’s long history of real medical exploitation of black people.

new paper details the real health effects that the Tuskegee Study had on black people. The work from Marcella Alsan at the Stanford Medical School and Marianne Wanamaker at the University of Tennessee provides evidence for a strong claim: that by 1980, the public revelation of the Tuskegee Study in 1972 had reduced life expectancy among black men over 45 by over a year.

The study provides causal evidence in a body of research that stretches back decade, and it is a major revelation. As New York Magazine note, the main conclusion of Alsan and Wanamaker’s work is that the Tuskegee Study was responsible for over a third of the life expectancy gap between older black men and white men in 1980. But the conclusions extend beyond that and fit with a body of anecdodal evidence from physicians and patients. Disclosure of the Tuskegee Study disrupted a slow convergence of black health outcomes with white health outcomes in the mid-20th century, accelerated an erosion of trust in doctors, and dampened health-seeking behavior and health-care utilization for black men. And it did so more for those who were more similar to the Tuskegee Study’s unwitting participants and those who were closely connected to the community of Tuskegee.

For Alsan and Wanamaker, the study spoke to longstanding interests, but required some methodological innovations.

“From the medical side I had been sort of acutely aware of the Tuskegee experiment,” Alsan told me. “It would come up among the medical staff and even occasionally with patients. So I think that was one of the seeds that made me think that this could potentially be important.”

He connected with Wanamaker, who had been studying racial disparities in education and labor markets, and both became convinced that this nefarious study might have actual quantifiable effects that could be uncovered.

One of the important contributions of their paper is the methodology it uses. It draws mostly on publicly accessible data on medical trust from the General Social Survey, data on health utilization from the National Health Interview Survey, Census measures of migration patterns, and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on mortality and morbidity.

The innovation lies in how Alsan and Wanamaker used those data. Using a triple-difference model, the year 1972 was treated as the “exposure” itself since there aren’t real measures of how the news of the study was disseminated. As Wanamaker said,

“we knew that there should be a sharp difference in 1972 and we knew there should be a difference between black men and any other peer group.”

There were two problems though. Black men and white men are already starkly different in health utilization and outcomes, and Alsan and Wanamaker needed some piece of data that could identify the Tuskegee Study itself as a factor in the divergence of those health outcomes. To accomplish this, they  used distance from the epicenter of the Tuskegee Study, demographic similarity to the Tuskegee Study’s participants, and migration clusters, to identify if something that happened in Tuskegee in 1972 could be implicated. What they found is almost too perfect:

outcomes, trust, and life expectancy diminished with proximity to Macon County;

men who were more similar to Tuskegee’s uneducated, poor, medically underserved population were more likely to suffer diminished outcomes;

and migrants from Alabama in the wake of Tuskegee were very likely to carry with them these diminished outcomes.

These additional differences point to the singular significance of the Tuskegee Study. Information was less ubiquitous in 1972 than it is today, and distance from Alabama could signal that formal and informal information networks and people emigrating out of Tuskegee played a role in spreading mistrust. People who saw themselves reflected in the Tuskegee Study’s population paradoxically ended up suffering more. And the results hold up even in the health morass of the South, which is notorious for being pretty bad for black patients.

“We don’t highlight this within the paper,” Alsan said, “but you actually can see distance effects within the South, even the Deep South.”

The story that Alsan and Wanamaker uncovered is even deeper than the direct effects of the Tuskegee Study. It illustrates how black migrants fleeing the southern exploitation and racism that the Tuskegee Study exemplified carried their experiences with them. Distance mitigated those effects, except in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, where clusters of Alabaman migrants lived and worked after the second Great Migration. By the picture painted here, the Tuskegee Study was not a singular event that was reported and processed immediately, but a generational scarring that defined a decade of black history.

It is a shame, then, that it is difficult to envision work that expands the working paper’s quantitative conclusions much further. It’s just difficult to find relevant historical data, and Alsan and Wanamaker’s work already stretches the imagination and limits of analytic technique to make the most of existing data. But their research helps validate the anecdotal experiences of physicians, historians, and public health workers in black communities, and gives new power to them. As Alsan states,

“I’ve had individuals come up to me—at least one woman came up to me and she said that after Tuskegee, she was eight at the time and didn’t realize it—and said that they stopped going to her regular pediatrician and drove an hour to get to a black doctor instead of a white doctor.”

These findings are also useful in framing health-care debates and discussions of health disparities today. While the researchers did not find similar effects for younger people and the Tuskegee Study, this is a model for understanding a level of medical mistrust that still exists in black communities today. Other violations of ethics or stigmatization of diseases may be causing similar mortality effects now. Also, this research is important for grounding policy on diversifying the health-care workforce and for ensuring forward-thinking consideration of medical ethics for marginalized people as the field enters the digital and genomic ages.

Still, a paper that has not yet been peer-reviewed or replicated has its limits, and works best as a spark for more research and a reminder of the country’s past. The two go hand in hand, and there is still much work to be done in understanding broadly how the past America’s racial history defines the present, and more narrowly how people actually engage with their own health. As Wanamaker told me:

“I’m surprised everywhere I go about how many people––particularly white people—don’t know this story. One thing I hope is that by publishing the paper we will remind people or even inform them about something that is so important but has dropped out of cultural conversation.”

Interestingly, that awareness of the Tuskegee Study is exactly what eroded trust and what Wanamaker and Aslan have identified as a contributor to health disparities in the first place. Black patients were forced to make the impossible choice between participating in a grossly unethical medical system and accessing necessary health services. But the 1972 disclosure made the system less abusive, and led to reforms such as the Belmont Report that established medical ethics and protections for disadvantaged people. The choice for black patients now is no longer impossible, and a clear-eyed discussion of the past can help make it easier.


The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, (informally referred to as the “Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment,” the “Tuskegee Syphilis Study,” the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the African American Male,” the “U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee,” or the “Tuskeegee Experiment”) was an unethical natural history study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The purpose of this study was to observe the natural history of untreated syphilis; the African-American men who participated in the study were told that they were receiving free health care from the federal government of the United States. Wikipedia.

The Study Begins – Centre for Disease Controland Prevention CDC.Gov

In 1932, the Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began a study to record the natural history of syphilis in hopes of justifying treatment programs for blacks. It was called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.”

The study initially involved 600 black men – 399 with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease. The study was conducted without the benefit of patients’ informed consent. Researchers told the men they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several ailments, including syphilis, anemia, and fatigue. In truth, they did not receive the proper treatment needed to cure their illness. In exchange for taking part in the study, the men received free medical exams, free meals, and burial insurance. Although originally projected to last 6 months, the study actually went on for 40 years.

What Went Wrong?

In July 1972, an Associated Press story about the Tuskegee Study caused a public outcry that led the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs to appoint an Ad Hoc Advisory Panel to review the study. The panel had nine members from the fields of medicine, law, religion, labour, education, health administration, and public affairs.

The panel found that the men had agreed freely to be examined and treated. However, there was no evidence that researchers had informed them of the study or its real purpose. In fact, the men had been misled and had not been given all the facts required to provide informed consent.

The men were never given adequate treatment for their disease. Even when penicillin became the drug of choice for syphilis in 1947, researchers did not offer it to the subjects. The advisory panel found nothing to show that subjects were ever given the choice of quitting the study, even when this new, highly effective treatment became widely used.

The Study Ends and Reparation Begins

The advisory panel concluded that the Tuskegee Study was “ethically unjustified”–the knowledge gained was sparse when compared with the risks the study posed for its subjects. In October 1972, the panel advised stopping the study at once. A month later, the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs announced the end of the Tuskegee Study.

In the summer of 1973, a class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of the study participants and their families. In 1974, a $10 million out-of-court settlement was reached. As part of the settlement, the U.S. government promised to give lifetime medical benefits and burial services to all living participants. The Tuskegee Health Benefit Program (THBP) was established to provide these services. In 1975, wives, widows and offspring were added to the program. In 1995, the program was expanded to include health as well as medical benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was given responsibility for the program, where it remains today in the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. The last study participant died in January 2004. The last widow receiving THBP benefits died in January 2009. There are 11 offspring currently receiving medical and health benefits.

Tuskegee Experiment timeline

Booker T. Washington at the Atlanta Cotton Exposition, outlines his dream for black economic development and gains support of northern philanthropists, including Julius Rosenwald (President of Sears, Roebuck and Company).

Tuskegee educational experiment gains widespread support. Rosenwald Fund provides monies to develop schools, factories, businesses, and agriculture.

Booker T. Washington dies; Robert Moton continues work.

Health is seen as inhibiting development and major health initiative is started. Syphilis is seen as major health problem. Prevalence of 35% observed in reproductive age population.

Aggressive treatment approach initiated with mercury and bismuth. Cure rate is less than 30 percent; treatment requires months and side effects are toxic, sometimes fatal.

Wall Street Crash – economic depression begins.

Rosenwald Fund cuts support to development projects. Clark and Vondelehr decide to follow men left untreated due to lack of funds in order to show need for treatment program.

Follow-up effort organized into study of 399 men with syphilis and 201 without. The men would be given periodic physical assessments and told they were being treated. Moton agrees to support study if, “Tuskegee Institute gets its full share of the credit,” and black professionals are involved (Dr. Dibble and Nurse Rivers are assigned to study).

First papers suggest health effects of untreated syphilis.

Major paper published. Study criticized because it is not known if men are being treated. Local physicians asked to assist with study and not to treat men. Decision was made to follow the men until death.

Efforts made to hinder men from getting treatment ordered under the military draft effort.

Penicillin accepted as treatment of choice for syphilis.

USPHS establishes “Rapid Treatment Centers” to treat syphilis; men in study are not treated, but syphilis declines.

Beginning in 1947, 127 black medical students are rotated through unit doing the study.

Concern raised about ethics of study by Peter Buxtun and others – whistleblowers.

CDC reaffirms need for study and gains local medical societies’ support (AMA and NMA chapters officially support continuation of study).

First news articles condemn studies.

Study ends.

Congress holds hearings and a class-action lawsuit is filed on behalf of the study participants.

A $10 million out-of-court settlement is reached.

The U.S. government also promised to give lifetime medical benefits and burial services to all living participants; the Tuskegee Health Benefit Program (THBP) was established to provide these services.

Wives, widows and offspring were added to the program.

The program was expanded to include health as well as medical benefits.

On May 16th President Clinton apologizes on behalf of the Nation.

Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care hosts 1st Annual Commemoration of the Presidential Apology.

President’s Council on Bioethics was established.

CDC funds 10 million dollar cooperative agreement to continue work at Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care.

The last U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee participant dies on January 16.

Tuskegee University holds formal opening of Bioethics Center.

CDC hosts Commemorating and Transforming the Legacy of the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Syphilis Study at Tuskegee.

The last widow receiving THBP benefits dies on January 27.

Dr Jeune Guishland-Pine OBE is that rarest of people a Black female Psychologist, working with children and families in both the statutory and voluntary sectors since 1980 and specifically as a psychologist since 1988, with a cumulative experience base of 30 years of working with children and families in the school setting. She is also the wife of Musician Courtney Pine.

She is co-author of Understanding Looked After Children: An Introduction to Psychology for Foster Care (2007), Jessica Kingsley Publishers and editor of Psychology, Race Equality and Working with Children (2010), Trentham Books. She is also co-editor of Supporting the Mental Health Needs of Children in Care:  Evidence for Practice (in press), Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Guishard-Pine set up Bespoke Psychology in 2012. For those interested in finding out more about her research, in her unpublished PhD Research Beyond Father Absence: An Investigation into Black Fathering and Child Outcomes in Britain – in education (Dedicated to the greatness of five black fathers from across the globe: Muhammad Ali, Ruben Carter, Neville Lawrence, Nelson Mandela and Bob Marley) has some interesting findings in the conclusion highlighting the importance of decoloning history and the positive presentation of people with African heritage:

The model of nigrescence highlights the view of ‘self’ from an Afrocentric perspective which includes the collective view of self; arguably a notion that is allied to the collective identity of oppressed peoples. Consequently the understanding of the psychology of black people i.e. Americanised-Africans and Europeanised-Africans must be African-based. The proper understanding of black self-concept must be based on African associations and incorporate African-based analyses and conceptions in this regard. From this series of Studies, we can clearly see the importance of the African self-concept and its psychological basis for the self-concept of African/Caribbean children.

It is both vital and important that the African/Caribbean communitiesdevelop a means to express their authentic experience in this country, and an accurate workable theory is woven in to the discipline of ‘Black Psychology’. It is very difficult if not important, to understand the lifestyles of black people using traditional theories developed by white psychology to explain (in the main) white people.  Although research conducted by African-American psychologists have suggested that when these traditional theories are applied to the lives of black people many incorrect, weakness-dominated and inferiority-orientated conclusions come about. This was not generally the findings from this very early study of black family life and its impact on children in the British context. In fact, there were very few findings to conclude the inferiority’ of African/Caribbean children and/or their families. 

Jeune Guishard-Pine Merits

  • Winner of Men and Women of Merit Award, 2003
  • NHS Excellence in Teamwork Award 2004
  • Winner British Psychological Society Award for Promoting Equality of Opportunity 2004
  • OBE for services to families 2011
  • Winner Skills for Care and Development/Skills for Health Excellence out of Adversity Award 2011

In 2010 Guishard-Pine spoke to The Psycologist Society in their article, One on one… with Jeune Guishard-Pine, on being a Black female Psychology she says:

One thing that organised psychology could do better

It’s about time we had a network within the BPS that is devoted to ethnicity and culture. I set up the Association of Psychology and Culture (UK) with the aim of establishing a database of all research, published and unpublished, on the social science of UK ethnic minority people. It’s simply too huge a remit for a single person to manage, although my forthcoming book considers how we can inform and enhance the work that applied psychologists are doing with a range of ethnic groups in the UK. Alternatively, having a special feature for every Black History Month (October in the UK) in The Psychologist would be a useful start.

One inspiration

My mother worked full time (I am the last of 13). I only really understood her true value when as a full-time working mother myself, my vacuum cleaner broke down one day and I had to sweep the house from top to bottom.   I realised then just how much my mum had contributed physically, mentally, emotionally and financially so that our family could survive. I felt ashamed about how much I had been taking for granted domestically.

One book

Howitt and Owusu-Bempah’s 1994 book The Racism of Psychology: Time for a Change.

One thing that you would change about psychologists

Psychologists should make an effort to link to more diverse social groups. I think too many of us rarely in our personal lives encounter a similar range of people to those we work with.

One vital aspect of psychology in foster care

To notice how easy it is for all of us ‘helping’ the child to mimic the flaws in the child’s birth family.

One great thing about jazz

My husband, Professor Courtney Pine CBE, is pretty amazing! Oh, and his music’s not too bad either! Seriously, to hear great jazz is to hear outstanding musicianship. Jazz musicians are creating music instantaneously rather than writing and rewriting it over
a period of months.

One alternative career path

I would have liked to stick with music/events management from my early days of managing jazz bands if we didn’t end up having six children! Life on the road is no good for children.

One great thing psychology has achieved

I’m really proud of the role that psychology continues to play
in the debates and practice about how one’s sense of self develops – and recovers – from traumas. The various theories both transcend and elevate the role of race and culture in the development of self.

One challenge you think psychologists face

To truly believe in something. I think the politics of human organisations force too many psychologists to blow like the wind in terms of the values about the work we are doing, especially psychologists who are ambitious in status terms.

One role for black fathers

In promoting the self-pride that will strengthen the child’s defences from the violence of racism.

One hope for ‘black psychology’ in the UK

There is a definite need for a renaissance. I think once many of us associated with the black psychology movement got bogged down with balancing family life and the daily struggle of surviving public institutions, we no longer had the energy or the physical time to keep the momentum going. If we can achieve just one major publication every year, that would be a major boost to the movement.

Online only Questions & Answers

One hero/heroine from psychology past or present
Wade Nobles, from people who I hold on a pedestal. Actually I couldn’t really ask for a better boss than the one I have now – thanks Jenny.

One regret
That I still feel that I am not judged on what I say and do.

One nugget of advice for aspiring psychologists
I think it would have to be to keep your mind open to the unlimited possibilities of human behaviour.

One problem that psychology should deal with
I was listening to Radio 5 on the 40th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act and the announcer said that the prediction is that women will not achieve equal pay to men until about 2067. My arithmetic tells me that it will take nearly 100 years to achieve a level of equality between men and women in what is a very advanced society indeed. I am intrigued to know what research is coming out of organisational and social psychology to explain and/or justify this issue.

One cultural recommendation

As a family we’re all huge fans of film. We’ve got a huge black film catalogue but I’ve got pretty eclectic tastes really… I would recommend either Godfather II or The Towering Inferno from the mainstream; and any Coen Brothers as great Indie stuff.

One moment that changed the course of your career
It has to be doing the tour of the law library wing at the University of Hull and seeing row after row of the Old English Law Reports, which made me switch to psychology.

One hope for the future of psychology
Well, maybe not for psychology as such, but I would love to see a President of the BPS that is from one of the visible racial minority groups in the UK.

One proud moment
Personally: a family photo session to commemorate 20 years together as a couple. Professionally: being criticised for being outspoken about the lack of black trainee psychologists – complacency is not an option.

Simukai Chigudu spells out eloquently growing up in the shadow of colonialism. Born 6 years after his country’s independence from Britain, he grew up in the shadow of colonialism. He learnt Latin and English, but not Shona, read British authors and was taught in a building not dissimilar to a British public school. The history of his own country, Zimbabwe, until 1980 Rhodesia, was little known to him. He went on to lead the campaign for ‘Rhodes Must Fall’. Chigudu is a strong advocate for decolonising history, his experience of schooling in Zimbabwe was similar to many young people’s experience in Britain, except the Latin. Chigudu says:

“Ignorance of history serves many ends. Sometimes it papers over the crimes of the present by attributing too much power to the past. Perhaps more often, it covers up past crimes in order to legitimise the way society is arranged in the present. As a teenager, I saw these dynamics play out in the former colony of Rhodesia. I would later discover how much more potent they were in Britain, the metropole.”

With the murder of George Floyd, he said:

“I can’t tell you if I thought about my father’s father, who was murdered by the Rhodesian state before I was born, but I know that, like many Black people, I experienced Floyd’s death as an intimate and personal trauma. If you have ever been on the sharp end of anti-Black racism, it is not difficult to identify with the suffering of other Black people under all kinds of racist regimes.”

This made me smile, as a white person.

Having had little response from the Oxford University to his campaign for ‘Rhodes Must Fall’, Simukai Chigudu continues:

“Ten days after Floyd’s death, the heads of all the Oxford colleges – every single one of them white – wrote an open letter in the Guardian claiming that they stood in solidarity with Black students and affirming their commitment to equal dignity and respect. I immediately thought of Gary Younge’s piercing observation that white people periodically ‘discover’ racism ‘the same way that teenagers discover sex: urgently, earnestly, voraciously and carelessly, with great self-indulgence but precious little self-awareness.’”

The full text is here and is well worth reading. ‘Colonialism had never really ended’: my life in the shadow of Cecil Rhodes by Simukai Chigudu Guardian 14th January 2021

Posted by Kate Thomas

The unveiling of the Mary Seacole Statue at St Thomas’s Hospital on the 30th June 2016

Bernell Bussue, the Royal College of Nursing’s London regional director, added: “The Mary Seacole statue at St Thomas’ Hospital is a fitting tribute to an important figure in nursing.

“Mary Seacole is a symbol of nursing diversity throughout history and an inspirational figure for nurses from all backgrounds today,” he said. “This monument overlooking the Thames means her memory will live on for generations to come.”

Nursing Times ‘Long-awaited Mary Seacole statue is unveiled

Read more about Mary Seacole on Black History Bootleg and here

Compiled by S. Davis & J. Adams – Contributions to WWI & II

Dr. Charles Richard Drew

Thanks to the work of this black American surgeon, millions of lives, all over the world have been saved. There are four different blood groups: A, B, AB, or O. During surgery if a patient needs a blood transfusion, it is important that each person receives the correct blood type, the one that is the closest matches their own.

In the early 1930’s this fact was not widely understood. Further complications were caused, because large quantities of blood could not be collected and stored.

In his research, Dr. Drew observed that blood went off if it was kept for more than a week. However, plasma (the liquid portion of the blood without the blood cells) would keep for much longer.

In 1939 War was declared in Europe. When the Nazi bombers turned their full force onto Britain, both at home and in the war zones there were many casualties. A project called Blood for Britain was set up in America but the standard of collecting and processing the blood was so varied, by the time the supplies reached England they were contaminated and could not be used.

It was at this point that Dr. John Beattie, head of the Royal Air Forces transfusion service sent an urgent message to Dr. Drew asking him to send 10,000 pints of plasma to him within a month. Although this seemed like an impossible challenge, the doctor completed the task.

To ensure that all American hospitals processed plasma to the same high standard Dr. Drew was appointed Medical Supervisor of the Blood for Britain programme. At the request of the British Government he was invited to Britain to oversee the Blood Banks; saving thousands of lives during this turbulent period. After the war Dr. Drew returned to America to become Professor of Medicine at Freedmen’s Hospital in Washington. 

By A Williams STOCCA (Six Towns One City Carnival Association)

When I first approached Mrs Parker and jokingly stated she had a tale to tell, Mrs Parker was humbled and politely declined, however a week later Mrs Parker contacted me she  had been encouraged to tell her story by her elder sister Gloria, whom Mrs Parker affectionately calls her inspiration. 

Clarissa W Green the 11th of 13 children, (10 survived birth) born to Mary and Nathaniel Green of Deanary Road Lower St Andrew Jamaica.

Clarissa speaks fondly of her parents recalling that they were the best parents in the world, her parents in her words were a solid couple.

In 1956 Clarissa came to England, staying with her elder sister in London, in 1960 Clarissa started her nursing training at Pinewood Hospital in Pinewood, Berkshire. Pinewood Hospital specialised in Pulmonary Tuberculosis it was in 1962 that Clarissa passed her written and oral examination and was certified in the nursing of cases of Pulmonary Tuberculosis.

Certificate for Clarissa W Parker (née Green) for her training to be a qualified Pulmonary Tuberculosis 1 Nurse 1962

In 1962 Nurse Green attended the Prestigious King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor, where she trained in the Medical, Surgical, Gynaecological, Orthopaedic and Paediatric wards from the 24th July 1962 to the 23rd July 1964, where she was certified with conduct being very good and duly qualified to discharge her duties as a Trained Nurse.

Certificate for C W Parker (née Green) as qualified to discharge the duties as a Trained Nurse 1964

Nurse Green recalls that you had to live in at King Edward VII hospital and every 3 months you undertook exams, which you had to pass to continue the rest of the nurse training, Miss Sinclair Brown, Matron was very very strict, but fair. Clarissa recalled, she liked Miss Sinclair Brown as you knew exactly where you stood with her.

Clarissa W Green now a qualified trained Nurse was invited back to King Edward VII Hospital Windsor in 1964 and was presented the Gaymer Jones Prize for Surgery, as she was nominated as the best Surgical Nurse. The award was presented to Clarissa W Green by the then Dean of Windsor. Prizes were awarded as recognition for outstanding work.

Gaymer Jones Prize for Surgery 1964

Clarissa remembers when she was informed of being an awardee, she opted to chose a book by Winifred Hector, Modern Nursing Theory and Practice.  Winifred Emily Hector was the Principal tutor at  St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and was very modern at the time,  credited with introducing modern curriculum and teaching methods to British nursing education.  To this date Clarissa still has this book with the inscription intact.

Modern Nursing: Theory and Practice by Winifred Hector – 1964 Gaymer Jones Prize for surgery

On 3rd December 1964 Clarissa Walberga Green was certified as a Registered Nurse.

Clarissa Walberga Green was officiallly admitted to the General Register maintained by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales and was entitled to use the title of “Registered Nurse” the  Seal of the Council was officially afixxed  on the 30th April 1965.

“Registered Nurse” the  Seal of the Council was officially affixed  on the 30th April 1965

In 1965 State Registered Nurse Green moved to Stoke on Trent Staffordshire which as she recalls when she approached Miss Sinclair Brown her Matron and tutor at King Edward VII hospital, to inform her of her decision, Matron Brown exclaimed leave it to me.

As a State Registered Nurse, C W Green moved to Stoke in 1965

State Registered Nurse Green moved into nurses accommodation just off Queen street, ST4 living within the hospital grounds, offering easy access to The Royal Infirmary Hospital, The Limes Maternity Hospital and The City General Hospital.

It was also in 1965 that Mr Owen Parker met Miss Clarissa Green.

30th June 1966 State Registered Nurse Clarissa Walberga Green after passing the 1st and 2nd examination of the Central Midwives Board, was certified and entitled by law to practice as a midwife.

Certificate for C W Green who passed her First and Second Examination for Midwifery 1966

In 1967 Mr Owen Parker and Miss Clarissa Walberga Green were married in Stoke on Trent.

Clarissa Walberga Parker, Senior Midwife in Charge at North Staffordshire Hospital

Throughout 31 years as the Senior Midwife in Charge at North Staffordshire Hospital, overseeing countless expectant mothers and patients, training upcoming student nurses working with and managing all aspects of her departments, working along side Doctors, Consultants and Professors, Senior Midwife Clarissa Parker affectionately called CP by her equals retired, from the National Health Service after 36 years in service.

Mrs Parker recalls the surprise by others when all the top Consultants made a point of signing her retirement card the signatures and comments speak for themselves.

… the comments speak for themselves, Living Legend

In 1998, North Staffordshire Hospital (NHS) Trust, the Chairman and Members of the Trust Board, placed on record their appreciation of the long and faithful service rendered by Mrs C. W. Parker, after 31 years with North Staffordshire Hospital, a combined service within the National Health Service of 36 years.

1998 Testimonial Certificate of Appreciation of long and faithful service North Staffordshire Hospital (NHS) Trust 31 years.

I would like to personally thank Mrs Parker for sharing her nursing history and her sister Gloria for encouraging her to do so.


Footnote: Pulmonary Tuberculosis sometimes known as TB or Consumption was an extremely prevalent disease in London at the time Clarissa was training there to be a nurse and trained to take care of patients with TB. TB is airborne and London had even worse air quality in the 1960’s than it does today. It’s highly contagious. Often a silent killer for the poor and the homeless, many rich and well known people also died from TB. There is now a cure, but the disease has to be identified and even today London has a Find & Treat mobile service to track down those people who have TB and to provide them with treatment. How London Became the Tuberculosis Capital of Europe Guardian 26th November 2018. Although levels of TB are declining, still the 10% of the poorest people in Britain are seven times more likely to contract TB than the 10% richest people in the Britain and its still a killer.

Crimean war veteran nurse and original lady of the lamp

Mary Seacole’s reputation after the Crimean War (1853-1856) rivalled Florence Nightingale’s. Unlike Nightingale, Seacole also had the challenge to have her skills put to proper use in spite of her being black. A born healer and a woman of driving energy, she overcame official indifference and prejudice. She got herself out to the war by her own efforts and at her own expense; risked her life to bring comfort to the wounded and dying soldiers; and became the first black woman to make her mark on British public life. But while Florence Nightingale has gone down in history and become a legend, Mary Seacole was relegated to obscurity until recently.

Mary Seacole was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1805. Her father was a Scottish soldier, and her mother was a practitioner of traditional Jamaican medicine and had a boarding house where she cared for invalid soldiers and their wives. Mary learned about medicine from her mother, soon gaining her own reputation as a ‘skilful nurse and doctress’.

Mary travelled widely – there were two trips to Britain, and in 1851, she joined her brother Edward in Panama, where she opened a hotel. Soon she had saved her first cholera patient, and gained extensive knowledge of the pathology of this disease – which she herself contracted and recovered from.

She was widely praised for her work in treating cholera, and returned to Jamaica in 1853, where there was a yellow fever epidemic. The medical authorities came to her to provide nurses to care for the sick soldiers.

She travelled again to London, where she heard about the Crimean war and how the nursing system there had collapsed. She mad applications to the War Office, the army medical department, and the secretary of war to be allowed to go to the Crimea and tend to the sick and wounded. She pointed out that she had extensive experience, excellent references and knew many of the soldiers and regiments, having nursed them while they were stationed in Jamaica.

But she was turned away by everybody, including one of Florence Nightingale’s assistants. Was it possible, she asked herself,

‘that American prejudices against colour had taken root here? Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?’

in her disappointment, Mary cried in the street.

A distant relative of hers, called Day, was going to Balaclava on business, and they agreed to launch a firm called Seacole and Day, which would be a general store and hotel near the British camp in the Crimea. So, at the age of 50, with her large stock of medicines, Mary went to the battle zone as a sutler – a person who follows the army and sells provisions to the troops. The moment she arrived in Balaclava there were sick and wounded to attend to. She opened her British Hotel in the summer of 1855, near the besieged city of Sevastopol. Soon the entire British army knew of ‘Mother Seacole’s’. The soldiers were her sons and she was their mother.

Though some of the army doctors, despite her saving them a lot of work, regarded her as a ‘quack’, others were less bigoted. The assistant surgeon of the 90th Light Infantry watched with admiration as she, numb with cold would administer to the soldiers, giving them tea and food and words of comfort. She was often on the front line and frequently under fire.

It was W.H. Russell, the first modern war correspondent, who made Mary Seacole famous. He described her as:

“a warm and successful physician, who doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battle field to aid the wounded, and has earned many a poor fellow’s blessings.

“A more tender or skillful hand about a wound or broken limb could not be found among our best surgeons …. I saw her at the assaults on Redan, at the Battle of Tchernaya, at the fall of Sebastopol, laden with wine, bandages and food for the wounded and prisoners.”

She was, as she had promised herself, the first woman to enter Sevastopol when it fell. But the end of the war left Seacole and Day with expensive and unsaleable stores on their hands. They went bankrupt, and Mary returned to England a financially ruined woman. The Times demanded how could anyone forget the amazing things that Mary had done, and praise only Florence Nightingale?

Lord Rokeby and Lord Paget, both Crimean commanders organised a benefit festival at the Royal Surrey Gardens in Kennington to raise money for Mary. There were over 1,000 performers, and her name was ‘shouted by a thousand voices’.

In 1857, Mary published her autobiography, an outstandingly vivid piece of writing called The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in many lands which was prefaced by WH Russell:

“I trust that England will not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”

England, of course did forget Mary Seacole. She was awarded a Crimean medal, and a bust was made of her by Prince Victor of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, sculptor and nephew of Queen Victoria. The last 25 years of her life, however, were spent in obscurity. She died on 14th May 1881.