Wednesday, October 13, 2010

On October 13

On this day in ...
... 1862, Mary Henrietta Kingsley (top left) was born in Islington, England. She received no formal education but was taught German by her father, a traveler and writer, because it then was the language of medical research. Kingsley taught herself from the many books in her father's library. At age 29 her parents died within weeks of each other; thereafter what had been a vicarious life of travel became a real one. Kingsley ventured out in 1893, "[d]ressed in a stiff black skirt and blouse, with high buttoned shoes and a perky hat." She explained her choice of clothing thusly:

'You have no right to go about Africa in things you would be ashamed to be seen in at home.'
Kingsley would make a number of journeys to West and Central Africa, bring back to England new animals, and write books that increased English knowledge of the continent to Europe's south -- and unlike missionaries of the time, she defended indigenous practices, such as polygamy. Among her bestsellers was Travels in West Africa (1897). Kingsley died of enteric fever in 1900, while serving as a nurse in the Boer War in South Africa.

(Prior October 13 posts are here, here, and here.)

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