George Eliot and Florence Nightingale were certainly two of the most influential women of their Era. George Eliot was known for her genius at writing intelligent novels that address societal and historical issues, and Florence Nightingale was known for her work in sanitation reform, hospital design, and as the founder of nursing as a profession. These two women met when they were thirty two years old, and from that meeting onwards, they shared a friendship and a high regard for each other’s work. This paper explores the influence that Nightingale had on George Eliot’s novel, Middlemarch, and it explores the influence Middlemarch had on Nightingale’s work with educating nurses. George Eliot respected Nightingale’s efforts in sanitation reform and hospital design. This respect is apparent in Middlemarch as George Eliot promotes sanitation reform and Nightingale’s recommendations for hospital design. However, George Eliot also promotes germ-theory a subject that Nightingale opposed. This paper suggests that after reading Middlemarch Nightingale changed her position on germ-theory and took action to educate her nurses about contagions even though it was expedient for her to publicly dismiss the notion of contagions spreading disease in order to encourage support for sanitation reform. This paper demonstrate how respect and friendship between a writer and a social activists is able to promote an outcome that benefits many.


Melissa Purdue

Committee Member

Kristi K Cole

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)




Arts and Humanities

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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