Mary Seacole, a 19th-century Jamaican nurse, has been honoured as the first Jamaican-British woman on a Royal Mint coin. The coin was revealed to coincide with the UK’s Black History Month and is the first coin to feature a named Black woman from outside the UK.
The Mary Seacole commemorative £5 coin is not legal tender. The coin was designed by sculptor Martin Jennings, who also created the statue of Mary Seacole at St Thomas’ Hospital London, the first statue of a named Black female in the UK.
The reverse of the coin features King Charles III. Mary Seacole was born in Jamaica in 1805 to a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican woman who was skilled in traditional medicine and treated the sick at her boardinghouse. Mary considered herself Creole and faced civil rights curbs, including not being allowed to vote, hold public office or pursue professional careers.
In 1854, Mary came to England and asked to serve as an Army nurse in Crimea but was blocked. She went anyway and started the British Hotel, near Balaklava, offering comfortable rooms for sick and recovering officers. Mary also risked gunfire on the front line to help gravely wounded troops. She died of a stroke at her home in London in 1881.
The Mary Seacole commemorative £5 coin is a significant historical moment and pays tribute to Mary Seacole as a symbol of the NHS, diversity, social justice, and also in understanding the diverse contributions that have been made to the UK.
Trevor Sterling, chair of Mary Seacole Trust, said, “This is a very proud moment, and I’m looking forward to travelling to Jamaica to honour Mary Seacole Day to present the coin to the new Jamaican High Commissioner and gift a coin to the Institute of Jamaica. It’s our way of saying thank you, we know that you suffered a loss as a result, and we acknowledge what’s been given to us”.
The Mary Seacole commemorative £5 coin is a fitting tribute to her incredible legacy and celebrates her adventurous life and diligent work as a heroine of the Crimean War
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