Everyone’s heard of Florence Nightingale, right? The heroine nurse of the Crimean war. Well, somebody did it better.
Her name was Mary Seacole, aka Mother Seacole, aka Mary Grant. She was a Jamaican nurse who had learned tropical medicine from her mother, who ran a boarding house for disabled soldiers and sailors. Mary was convinced that her skill in tropical medicine would be helpful in the Crimean war, so she travelled to London to volunteer at the War Office. They turned her down, since she was a woman. When they changed their minds and Florence Nightingale was allowed to bring female nurses, Mary Seacole was not among her chosen few. So, rather than giving up, Mary Seacole borrowed the money to travel the 4,000 miles all by herself so she could treat the wounded from both sides on the battlefield. After the war ended, she was stranded there with no money and would have been stuck there for all time. Luckily, she made some friends who threw her a… yes, ladies and gentlemen, a benefit concert. Mary Seacole was that awesome.
When she got back, she wrote her own autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, and continued treating the sick.
She was also awesome enough that the fantastic Kate Beaton made a comic for her.