Kingsley, Mary Henrietta, 1862-1900

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1862-10-13
Death 1900-06-03
Britons
English

Biographical notes:

Mary Kingsley was a celebrated Victorian explorer, author, lecturer, and paradox. Her visits to Africa provided her with scientific accomplishments, lecture topics, and anecdotes to fill several popular travel books. She espoused a realistic view of Western Africa and its inhabitants, employing a distinctive, witty, independent style that changed British attitudes about Africa.

From the description of Mary Kingsley letters, 1895-1896. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 54049959

African travel writer.

From the description of ALS, 1897 February 6 : Kensington [Eng.] to Miss Blackburne. (Haverford College Library). WorldCat record id: 17670579

Mary Henrietta Kingsley was born on October 13, 1862, in Islington, England. Shortly after the death of both of her parents in 1892, Kingsley made a brief trip to the Canary Islands. During the next eight years, she returned many times and travelled extensively throughout West Africa, writing several detailed books on her travels and ethnology. In England, Kingsley gained renown through her many lectures on Africa and her behind-the-scenes politicking on several major issues affecting British colonial affairs. She died of typhoid on June 3, 1900, while a nurse in South Africa during the Boer War.

From the description of Mary Henrietta Kingsley papers, 1897-1900 (inclusive). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702192612

British traveller and author.

From the description of Letter, 1895 March 12. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122552603

Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900) was a British traveller and author.

Stephen Lucius Gwynn (1864-1950) was an Irish journalist, biographer, author, poet, and politician.

From the guide to the Collection on Mary Henrietta Kingsley, 1895-1933, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Mary Henrietta Kingsley was born on October 13, 1862, in Islington, England. Shortly after the death of both of her parents in 1892, Kingsley made a brief trip to the Canary Islands. During the next eight years, she returned many times and travelled extensively throughout West Africa, writing several detailed books on her travels and ethnology. In England, Kingsley gained renown through her many lectures on Africa and her behind-the-scenes politicking on several major issues affecting British colonial affairs. She died of typhoid on June 3, 1900, while a nurse in South Africa during the Boer War.

Mary Henrietta Kingsley was born on October 13, 1862, to George Henry and Mary Bailey Kingsley in Islington, England. Kingsley's father was a doctor, although he primarily devoted himself to traveling and writing. Despite a lack of any formal education except a few German lessons, Mary Kingsley clearly possessed a great thirst for knowledge, which was evidenced in her youth by her love of reading, particularly of scientific subjects. During her first thirty years, Kingsley lived the quiet life of an undistinguished Victorian woman, tending the house and caring for her bedridden mother.

Shortly after the death of both of her parents in 1892, however, Kingsley made a brief trip to the Canary Islands. During the next eight years, she returned many times and traveled extensively throughout West Africa, principally Cameroon and Gabon. During her explorations of the previously charted, yet dimly understood, hinterland of West Africa, Kingsley collected artifacts and zoological specimens. Her greatest interests, though, were in African culture and religion. Kingsley wrote several detailed books on her travels and on ethnology: Travels in West Africa (1897), West African Studies (1899), and The Story of West Africa (1900).

In England, Kingsley gained renown through her many lectures on Africa and her behind-the-scenes politicking on several major issues affecting British colonial affairs. In general, Kingsley opposed those measures which proceeded from an ignorance of African culture or which threatened to unduly disrupt native life. For example, she favored the influence of traders, who wished to work with the natives, over missionaries, who sought to drastically transform the local culture. Despite these relatively progressive beliefs, Kingsley apparently viewed the British as the natural rulers of Africa and espoused her own brand of economic imperialism.

In addition to her significance as an explorer and anthropologist, Kingsley provides a valuable portrait of British values during the era of colonialism. And as recent biographers have shown, she also serves as an excellent example of a woman alternately freed from and constrained by the limitations of the Victorian age.

Mary Kingsley died of typhoid on June 3, 1900, while a nurse in South Africa during the Boer War.

From the guide to the Mary Henrietta Kingsley papers, 1897-1900, (Manuscripts and Archives)

Mary Henrietta Kingsley was born in Islington, London on the 13 October 1862. A niece of the clergyman and author Charles Kingsley, she led a secluded life until age 30, when she set out alone to visit West Africa and to study African religion and law. She hoped this research would help her complete a book left unfinished by her deceased father, George Henry Kingsley.

During 1893 and 1894 Mary Kingsley visited Cabinda, a coastal district of Angola; Old Calabar in southeast Nigeria; and the island of Fernando Po (now Bioko), part of Equatorial Guinea, near the Cameroon coast. Around the lower Congo River she collected specimens of beetles and freshwater fish for the British Museum.

Returning to Africa in December 1894, Kingsley visited the French Congo and then journeyed to Gabon. In this area, parts of which had never before been visited by a European, she had many adventures and narrow escapes travelling up the Ogoou River through the country of the Fang, a tribe known for cannibalism. She then visited Corisco Island, off Gabon, and also climbed Mount Cameroon. Kingsley returned to England in November 1895 with a collection of valuable zoological specimens, three of which were entirely new and were named after her. Between 1896 and 1899 she lectured widely throughout her homeland.

Kingsley died on the 3 June 1900 in Simonstown, near Cape Town, Cape Colony (now in South Africa) while nursing sick prisoners during the Boer War.

From the guide to the Letters from Mary Henrietta Kingsley, 1896-1899, (The Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House)

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Subjects:

  • Fetishism Africa, West
  • Correspondence
  • Material Types
  • Women authors, English--19th century--Correspondence
  • Missionaries
  • Women travelers Africa, West Correspondence
  • Nigeria--Civilization
  • Women authors

Occupations:

  • Explorers
  • Ethnologists

Places:

  • Africa, West (as recorded)
  • Nigeria (as recorded)
  • Africa (as recorded)
  • Great Britain (as recorded)
  • Nigeria (as recorded)
  • Africa, West Description and travel (as recorded)