• Another image of PHOTOGRAPH OF EDITH CAVELL, by [W.W.I.] CAVELL, Edith.
  • Another image of PHOTOGRAPH OF EDITH CAVELL, by [W.W.I.] CAVELL, Edith.

PHOTOGRAPH OF EDITH CAVELL, England’s Martyr-Nurse. On Satin. Sold for the Benefit of the “’Daily Mirror’ Nurse Cavell Memorial Fund”... [n.p. but London, and n.d. but ca.

1915-1919.]. Small photograph on satin, 140 x 85mm, retaining the original printed brown envelope, photograph a little browned with faint dampstain (more visible on verso), with some light fraying to edges; envelope a little creased with a few small marginal nicks and tears, but otherwise good. A scarce memorial item commemorating the death of the British nurse Edith Cavell (1865-1915).
The daughter of a rector, Cavell was born in the village of Swardeston, Norfolk, and worked as a governess in Belgium, before training to be a nurse in London. She worked in hospitals in Shoreditch, Kings Cross and Manchester and then accepted a position in Brussels as Matron in Belgium's first training hospital and school for nurses. There was no established nursing profession in Belgium at the time of Edith's appointment, and her pioneering work led her to be considered the founder of modern nursing education in that country. She was in Norfolk visiting her mother when the First World War broke out in 1914. On hearing of the threat to Belgium, she felt compelled to return. Working in German-occupied Belgium, she helped hundreds of British, French and Belgian soldiers escape the Germans before her arrest and trial. She was infamously executed by firing squad on the grounds of treason by the German authorities in October 1915, on the charge of harbouring Allied soldiers in Belgium. Her death aroused world-wide condemnation, and in the months and years following her death, countless newspaper articles, pamphlets, images, and books publicised her story, and she became an iconic propaganda figure in Britain, due partly to her sex, her nursing profession, and her apparently heroic approach to death.
In 1919 her remains were transferred back to Britain and she was honoured with a national service at Westminster Abbey, before her remains were carried in state back to her home county of Norfolk, where she was interred at Norwich Cathedral.
This photographic portrait of Cavell printed on Satin, was sold by the Daily Mirror in aid of the Edith Cavell Memorial Fund, which aimed to establish a home for nurses in London. A reproduction of the famous photograph taken in Brussels before the start of the war, the image shows her sitting in a garden together with two dogs, with her signature below and the quote '"I have seen death so often that it is not strange or painful to me. I am glad to die for my country." Brussels, October 12th, 1915'. It was one of the last photographs to be taken of Edith Cavell. Whilst in Belgium she had adopted a stray called Jack, who was rescued after her execution and adopted by the Countess de Croy. The photograph is housed within the original orange printed envelope, which gives further detail of the proposed Fund, and lists a number of distinguished people who have already contributed to the Fund. The Memorial Fund was begun, in collaboration with the Daily Telegraph, shortly after her death. The Edith Cavell Home for Nurses, attached to the London Hospital, was opened on April 11th 1919. The Cavell Trust remains to this day, offering benevolent support to UK nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, both working and retired.

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