I Attribute My Success to This:—I Never Gave or Took an Excuse

Florence Nightingale? Apocryphal?

nightingale09Dear Quote Investigator: Florence Nightingale was one of the great humanitarians of the nineteenth century. She was the founder of modern nursing, and her work as an educator, administrator, and activist saved many lives. Her calls for urgent action often elicited excuses, but she continued to move forward. She reportedly said the following:

I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse.

Nightingale died in 1910, and I have only been able to find citations in the 2000s. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1913 a two-volume biography by Sir Edward Cook titled “The Life of Florence Nightingale” was released. A very close match to the quotation appeared within a letter that was reprinted in the book. The word “any” was originally “an”. The 1861 missive was sent from Nightingale to Miss H. Bonham Carter. Emphasis in excerpts added by QI: 1

I have had a larger responsibility of human lives than ever man or woman had before. And I attribute my success to this:—I never gave or took an excuse. Yes, I do see the difference now between me and other men. When a disaster happens, I act and they make excuses.

Further below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading I Attribute My Success to This:—I Never Gave or Took an Excuse


  1. 1913, The Life of Florence Nightingale by Sir Edward Cook (Edward Tyas Cook), Volume 1 of 2, Letter from Florence Nightingale to Miss H. Bonham Carter, Date: 1861, Quote Page 506, Macmillan and Company, London. (HathiTrust Full View) link link