Description: Mary Kingsley began her life as a typically conventional Victorian woman. She would end up travelling to some of the most inhospitable regions of Africa and became one of the most celebrated travellers of the day. At the age of 31, she sailed on a cargo ship along the coast from Sierra Leone to Angola and then traveled inland from Guinea to Nigeria, studying African customs and beliefs. On her second journey, she ventured into remote parts of Gabon and the French Congo–the first European to do so. She encountered cannibals and crocodiles, studied the religious customs of the reclusive Fang tribe, climbed Mount Cameroon and explored the Ogowe River, trading cloth for ivory and rubber to fund her trip. She returned only once to Africa, during the Boer War, when she worked as a nurse and journalist. Tragically, she died of typhoid in 1900, only 38 years old.
The Royal Geographical Society briefly admitted some women as ‘Fellows’ in 1893, acknowledging their work to be contributing to scientific knowledge. The celebrated traveller Mary Kingsley was admitted as a fellow in this first cohort, but this was a short-lived achievement for women, and the society closed the membership category for women until 1913. This was noted in a satirical poem published in the newspaper ‘Punch’:
A Lady an explorer? a traveller in skirts?
The notion’s just a trifle too seraphic:
Let them stay and mind the babies, or hem our ragged shirts;
But they mustn’t, can’t, and shan’t be geographic.
For My Parents and Lee and Justin
Opening quote:I thought for some reason even then of Africa, not a particular place, but a shape, a strangeness, a wanting to know… I have written “a shape”, and the shape, of course, is roughly that of a human heart – Graham Greene
Opening: It was well past midnight, and as usual Mary Kingsley was still up, writing in the small library of her house at 32 Saint Mary Abbot’s Terrace, Kensington.
The Morant Bay rebellion began on 11th October 1865, when Paul Bogle led 200 to 300 black men and women into the town of Morant Bay, parish of St. Thomas in the East, Jamaica. The rebellion and its aftermath were a major turning point in Jamaica’s history, and also generated a significant political debate in Britain. Today, the rebellion remains controversial, and is frequently mentioned by specialists in black and colonial studies.(wiki sourced)