In 1815, William Shore, age 20, inherited an estate from his maternal great uncle, Peter Nightingale. With the estate, he took upon himself the Nightingale name and coat of arms. He was quite a wealthy young man.

Three years later, in 1818, William married Frances Smith, and the couple went on a three-year tour of Italy.

In 1819, a daughter was born while they were in a Greek part of Naples called Parthenope. They named the girl Frances Parthenope Nightingale.

Today, many people pronounce Parthenope as if it has three syllables. They accent the first syllable and make the last one rhyme with dope or hope, like this: PAR-thin-ohp.

It should, however, be pronounced with four syllables. The accent is on the second syllable and the last two rhyme with oh-pee. Like this: par-THIN-oh-pee.

Most people, if they say Parthenope’s name at all, don’t care how it’s pronounced. That’s because a year after her birth, while the family was still in Italy, another daughter was born. They were in Florence at the time, and this girl was named Florence after the city of her birth.

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When they returned to England, William designed a house, called Lea Hurst, for his family to live in. Most manor houses of wealthy gentlemen were made to stand out, to be show places. William, however, designed Lea Hurst to blend quietly into the environment, even using a local gray stone of the sort used in lesser homes. This design gave the Nightingale family considerable privacy.

Wealthy daughters from wealthy families were expected to marry wealthy young men and provide children for them.

Though this may be what the Nightingales planned for Parthenope and Florence, a hole was shot, unintentionally perhaps, in those plans. When the girls were of school age, William had them taught by a governess, but also dedicated himself to their education, home-schooling them in Greek, Latin, German, French, Italian, history, mathematics, philosophy, and classical literature.

As a result of their father’s efforts, the girls were educated well beyond what was thought proper for young women.

Eventually, Parthenope married a baronet named Harry Verney. She remodeled and restored the Verney family home, Claydon House.  She also did extensive research into the Verney family history, and cataloged and preserved the family’s historical papers.

In addition to that, she became a prolific writer,  producing articles and stories for major magazines. She wrote five novels and many essays.

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Her sister, Florence, never married. She dedicated her life to furthering health care practices, and became famous for her nursing efforts during the Crimean War.

Though at first Parthenope opposed her sister’s decision to become a nurse, she had a change of heart. Beginning with the Crimean War, she became an active supporter of Florence’s work.

In their later years, the two sisters lived near each other in London.

Florence Nightingale goes in and out of favor, depending on changing political climates and what factors critics choose to focus on. I believe that both sisters deserve our praise.

And for heaven’s sake, pronounce Parthenope correctly.

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