History's HEROES? 1865 - 1915

Edith Cavell

Should Edith Cavell be considered a hero?


Arguments for
  • Edith Cavell was prepared to sacrifice her conscience for the sake of her fellow people.
    Suddenly, she found herself faced with a decision - was she to go about her very worthwhile business as before, nursing the sick and wounded, or was she to risk her life and become involved in the resistance movement? She chose the latter. To achieve a greater good she was willing to compromise her reputation and even endanger our (the Red Cross) good name.
  • She was brave.
    In doing what she considered her duty, Edith was prepared to face what she understood to be the just consequences of her actions. She was prepared to surrender her life and liberty to relieve suffering and help others achieve freedom, and she died with great courage.
  • She was never bitter and was always willing to forgive.
    She did not want to be remembered as a martyr or a heroine but simply as "a nurse who tried to do her duty". She was not bitter at her sentence but accepted it. She was driven by a sense of duty, of patriotism, and by her personal faith which preached forgiveness.
  • She had a strong sense of duty and was altruistic.
    She was dedicated to relieving the suffering of others and to putting their needs before her own.
Arguments against
  • Edith Cavell was foolish.
    A 50-year-old lady, in a responsible job, risked everything, and paid with her life.
  • She damaged the reputation of the Red Cross and nursing profession.
    These organisations are meant to be neutral; she should have known that the work she and others did in the profession was too important to put at risk.

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