Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900) was an English writer and trailblazing woman explorer whose reports of her experiences in Africa, and her championing of the dignity of indigenous Africans and their customs, shed a new light on the continent for European audiences. She died in South Africa during the Second Boer War, serving as a nurse.
Travels in West Africaby Mary Kingsley
After a preliminary visit to the Canary Islands, Kingsley decided to travel to the west coast of Africa. The only non-African women who
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Mary Henrietta Kingsley was an English ethnographic and scientific writer and explorer whose travels throughout West Africa and resulting work helped shape European perceptions of African cultures and British imperialism.
After a preliminary visit to the Canary Islands, Kingsley decided to travel to the west coast of Africa. The only non-African women who regularly embarked on (often dangerous) journeys to Africa were usually the wives of missionaries, government officials, or explorers. Exploration and adventure were not seen as fitting roles for women in the Victorian era. Yet, when Mary Kingsley's invalid parents died within six weeks of each other, she followed in her explorer father's footsteps and traveled to Africa against her society's every convention. Here is her lively and witty account of that journey, an immediate bestseller when it first came out in 1897 and every bit as gripping today. Kingsley's complicated and indomitable character shines through in each sentence, as she describes hacking, marching, and climbing her way through the continent. After more than a century, she remains a feminist icon and a most remarkable woman.
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Life's early difficulties often lay the groundwork for later genius. Mary Kingsley was kept in almost complete isolation from Victorian society by her family, and, as a young woman, single-handedly managed the physical upkeep of her family's house. Her education was primarily from her absent adventurer-gentleman father's eclectic library, and all this produced a clear-thinking, capable adventurer in her own right. Written in a highly entertaining style, VERY similar to Mark Twain's, with NO pomposity and a clear respect for the indigenous West African (in present-day Nigeria, Gabon and Sierra Leone) people she met on her travels - this is a landmark book for anyone who enjoys autobiographies, humor, history and adventure. NOT TO BE MISSED!
Mary Kingsley has so far been an unrecognized genius - raised within the confines of a Victorian home, she set out after her parents' death to fill the African philosophy void that existed among her adventurer-doctor father's works. "But Africa was kind to me and interested me and didn't want to kill me just yet" - self-educated Mary Kingsley developed her own writer's voice with much the same descriptive wry observations as Mark Twain. She returned to England with a new perspective on re-vamping Colonial government of British Africa and gave lectures, as well as advised and mentored many in the Free Congo movement. This book features epiphanies of insight and top-notch humor on almost every page. Just. Brilliant.