Mary Kingsley: Explorer of the Congo by Heather Lehr Wagner

By Heather Lehr Wagner

Ladies Explorers chronicles the lives of six intrepid girls whose starvation for event and information pressured them on paths of discovery around the globe. Their discoveries not just introduced shops of knowledge on issues starting from historic dinosaur fossils to existence in Tibet, but additionally challenged the confirmed roles of girls of their fields. Kingsley set sail for Africa in 1893, embarking on a visit that will switch not just her lifestyles, however the Victorian figuring out of the darkish continent to boot. She traveled among the Niger and Congo rivers, used to be the 1st white lady to climb Mount Cameroon, and penned books approximately her learn in Africa.

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On her recent journey to the Canary Islands, she had listened to the grim tales of the West African traders, and her father’s accounts of his travels certainly informed Kingsley about the risks of such a journey. Africa represented a kind of escape for Kingsley—an escape from the familiar, an escape from what had become a sad and limited life, an escape from her grief over the deaths of Destination: Africa her parents, and an escape from the confines Victorian society placed upon a woman in her thirties.

Those who did go generally went prepared to serve in multiple capacities—as missionaries, as nurses, and as teachers. It was a difficult life, particularly for those women who went not because of a deep, personal desire to see the continent, but instead to accompany their husbands. The wife of explorer David Livingstone traveled with him to central Africa and died there in 1862. Anna Martin Hinderer traveled with her missionary husband to Nigeria in 1853 and wrote frequent 33 34 MARY KINGSLEY letters home to England outlining the difficulties and dangers of life in Africa.

Despite the vast knowledge she accumulated from books—an understanding Life Behind the Shutters that would gradually expand to include physics, chemistry, engineering, and even Latin—she would throughout her life remain self-conscious about her lack of formal education and continually apologize for it. When Charley was away at school, her father was away on his travels, and her mother was confined to her bed, Mary was left to amuse herself. This she did most often with books. She later recalled that the library provided her with a broad, if odd, array of knowledge on a wide range of subjects: They were mostly old books on the West Indies, and old medical books, and old travel books and what not; fiction was represented in it by the works of Smollett, and little else.

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