To celebrate the release of her new book Florence Nightingale: A Very Brief History, Lynn McDonald tells us a little bit about herself. 

Lynn Mcdonald

Lynn Mcdonald

I am an activist and a scholar both: I like to do research and to work on practical causes - now mainly climate change.

As a researcher I have done my homework on Florence Nightingale. I am the only person in the world who has read everything surviving of her work - there is a lot, all over the world.

I found it to be a pleasure to read her - not mere duty - and friends who helped proof read also felt moved at times, and at times we laughed! She was witty. She worked on important things, like health care for the poorest.

I am not much like Florence Nightingale. She was smarter than I am and worked harder, although I am no slouch. But I take holidays and go to the theatre, concerts and dinners. Like her, my Christian faith is important and shapes how I think about the world.

I admire Florence Nightingale for her kindness but am not remotely in the same league. Her day-to-day kindness to nurses, poor villagers, old soldiers, etc., was amazing. This is not well known, and in a cynical world not understood. How she had the decency and energy to help so many people I cannot understand.

I am still a political activist, in a limited way. I was a member of Parliament in Canada in the 1980s, for the New Democratic Party, which is like the Labour Party. Now I lobby on climate change, with a voluntary organization I co-founded, JustEarth: A Coalition for Environemtnal Justice. In recent years I have come to work on electoral reform, proportional representation. We badly need it in Canada as we get majority government with less than 40% of the popular vote, and they act as if they had 90%.

I have been a successful public health advocate. Yes, like Nightingale, I have saved lives! My Non-smokers’ Health Act of 1988 was the first legislation in the world to provide for smoke-free work and public places, and name tobacco as a hazardous product. The cigarette companies fought it vigorously, but we - my political colleagues, including many Conservatives and Liberals - got it in. It was a private member’s bill, opposed by a strong majority government. The campaign was supported by the Canadian Cancer Society, the Lung Association, Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada, the Non-smokers’ Rights Association, medical groups, etc. Hilarious, the antics the cigarette companies tried, but we won!

I am a feminist, a former president of what was then Canada’s largeest women’s organization. Not everything has been solved, but we have made great progress and the great issue for me now is climate change.

I like to write, get a lot of satisfaction from making a point in a convincing way.

I am an environmentalist at many levels - I love birds and walks in green places. We live on God’s good earth and have a duty to protect it.