It occurs to me that perhaps the millennials and younger generations are unaware of the amazing women who blazed a trail for them. I’ve decided to include some historically amazing women in my Amazing Women Wednesday series, and who better to talk about than Jane Goodall?
Like Jacques Cousteau, Jane Goodall was a part of the baby boomer and Gen X generation because we saw her on television. Cousteau’s specials were about the sea, Jane Goodall’s television appearances were always amazing because she actually lived with her study subjects (chimpanzees), and because she was a woman. Born in 1934 in London, no one could have dreamed that she would become the most famous primatologist in the world. Especially when one considers she did not have a college degree when she went to Africa.
As a young woman of 23, she traveled to Africa where she met well known anthropologist Louis Leakey. Leakey and his wife had discovered the oldest human remains known, and those remains were found in Africa. This was a surprise to most people, who thought humans began in Europe, or perhaps Asia. Without DNA or any of our modern scientific methods, Leakey believed that humans were closely related to Chimpanzees, Orangutans, and Gorillas. He chose Jane Goodall as his protege, for many different reasons. Leakey thought that since she did not have an education in animal science, she would be more likely to record what she actually saw rather than what she thought she was looking for. He was also of the opinion that women were more patient than men, and studying these animals would require patience, and a lot of time. She began in 1960, in Gombe National Park, and planned to stay a few years studying chimps. Jane Goodall stayed with these groups of chimps for two decades, and her discoveries are still notable today.
It took tremendous time and patience, but after tracking and following the animals for long periods of time, they began to allow her to get closer and closer to them. She gave them names, and noticed their differing personalities and complex social structures. They even used tools and ate meat. In 1965 she became only the 8th person to achieve a doctorate from Cambridge University in England without an undergraduate degree. Photographers from NatGeo came to photograph her, and soon they were also doing television specials of Jane’s work and research with the different chimp families.
Animal Planet recently celebrated Jane’s 80th birthday *(in 2014) with an article giving 10 Reasons Why Everyone Should Love (Lady) Jane Goodall. You really should click on the link and get a better understanding of the difference this amazing woman has made to science, to our world, and to humankind. Be sure to visit the Jane Goodall Institute online at http://www.janegoodall.org/. Read her book, Reason for Hope, and look at her many other books. She remains a pioneer, and an advocate for hope in a world that seems destined to destroy itself. Jane still has hope we can turn things around.
“If all of us would go through our lives thinking about the little choices we make each day as to what we buy, what we eat, what we wear – and how those choices might impact the environment, might impact child slave labor in other countries, might impact cruelty towards animals, we start making small changes… Billions of small changes around the world can lead to the kind of change we need if we care about future generations.” – Jane Goodall (http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/jane-goodall/photos/jane-goodall-birthday/)
Amazing Women Wednesday is a series about Amazing Women in our world, who are changing our world, or want to change it. Please check out www.blogher.com (SheKnows Media) and PRI for other stories of women and women’s futures.