Mary Kingsley: Petticoats in the Jungle


By: Nathan Chandler

5 Min Quiz

Mary Kingsley is best known for her adventures in which area?

At a time when women often remained at home to raise families, Kingsley was a true free spirit. She journeyed all over Africa, particularly West Africa.


Kingsley grew up in what sort of family?

She was raised in a smart, well-established family that knew much about the ways of the world. Her family's experiences emboldened Mary's travels.


Where did Kingsley grow up?

That oh-so-English name ought to offer a major clue. Mary grew up in a well-to-do neighborhood in London. Her family's station in life gave her many unique opportunities.


Why did Kingsley receive little education during her formative years?

She was a girl in a wealthy family -- which meant that her family didn't really expect her to require an education. But as it turned out, Mary was thirsty for knowledge.


Mary was a niece to Charles Kingsley and Henry Kingsley, both of whom had which job?

Both Charles and Henry were writers, a fact that contributed to Mary's ability to turn a phrase. Her father was also a writer and doctor who traveled all over the world.


Kingsley spent much of her 20s doing what?

Mary's mother became seriously ill, and Kingsley was expected to care for her. This meant Mary spent many months of her life in the home, getting more and more restless.


Kingsley's mother finally died in 1892 when Mary was 30 years old and her father died, too. What did Mary decide to do with the inheritance money?

Mary instantly felt unburdened once her mother had passed. She took her inheritance and immediately set about traveling the world.


Before she started traveling, Mary had experience in what field?

During her life, Mary received some formal training in nursing. Her compassion eventually guided some of her actions in Africa.


Where did Kingsley's first trip take her?

Mary took a short trip to the Canary Islands off the west coast of Africa and was immediately hooked. She then decided to further explore the African mainland.


What were Kingsley's views on religion?

Like many people of the 19th century, Mary was a devout Christian. But she had her own ideas on God and was mindful of how Christianity shaped her views of the world around her.


How did Kingsley perceive black Africans?

Kingsley loved the landscapes she explored, and she loved the people, too. She eventually became a go-between of sorts between Westerners and Africans.


How old was Mary when she got married?

From a young age, Mary was enthralled with the idea of adventure -- and marriage wasn't the sort of adventure she had in mind. She never married.


Where did Mary land for her first extended African journey in 1893?

Kingsley landed in Sierra Leone in August 1893. Then she headed east, often on foot, until she arrived in Nigeria.


Kingsley was the first Englishwoman to do what?

Mary was exceedingly courageous. She used her bravery to became the first Englishwoman to climb Mount Cameroon, which is more than 13,200 feet tall.


Kingsley often traveled with which stated purpose?

Mary fashioned herself as a trader, and she bartered goods to help propel her journeys. Trading also helped her to develop relationships with the locals.


Mary climbed Mount Cameroon alone.

She was accompanied by several men -- some of whom collapsed from exertion before they reached the summit. Of course, she made sure they were safe and comfortable, and then she pushed ahead until she reached the top.


In Africa, Kingsley ultimately behaved as though she was what?

Mary carefully observed the landscape, people, animals, plants and culture during her journeys. She was truly an anthropologist, albeit one without a formal degree.


How did Kingsley perceive the work of English missionaries in Africa?

After living among the Africans for a time, Kingsley grew to respect their traditions and cultures. She wasn't enthusiastic about the way missionaries attempted to change African ways.


Kingsley returned to England and lectured about her travels. How were these speeches received?

Mary spoke to large crowds, offering up her adventures and observations. Many people were simply enthralled with her amazing stories of compassion, suffering and danger.


Mary strongly aligned herself with women's rights movements.

Kingsley was never keen to call herself a feminist and didn't prioritize the idea of women's suffrage. She did, however, constantly stick up for herself and her own ideas about society.


Mary was the first European -- male or female -- to enter parts of which country?

In the late 19th century, there were still parts of Africa where no European had ever set foot. Mary was the first Europen to explore parts of Gabon.


During her 1895 expedition, Mary collected many kinds of what creature?

Kingsley collected dozens of species of fish during her 1895 trip. Three of those species wound up being named for her.


How did Kingsley dress for her adventures?

Mary didn't really try to hide the fact that she was a woman. She wore dresses and acted in a very ladylike manner -- but with a boldness that few women of the day could muster.


Kingsley often traveled Africa alone.

Kingsley pushed into remote areas of Africa, often without a single companion. Many people asked why she was traveling without her husband.


Mary encountered polygamy in many areas of Africa. What were her thoughts on that subject?

Many Europeans abhorred polygamy, but after experiencing African culture, Mary realized that polygamy was part of their functioning society … and she defended it from Western attacks.


Kingsley returned to Africa in 1895 specifically to explore which topic?

Westerners were fascinated by the idea of cannibalism, and Mary was no exception. She decided that she would set out to explore this bloody subject during her 1895 trip.


How was Kingsley's health during her journeys?

Many people (including Africans) were sick back in those days, but Kingsley had little trouble adapting to the area. She was nearly always healthy during her travels.


Kingsley wrote a book called "Travels in West Africa." How was the book received?

Mary had a descriptive and self-deprecating style of writing that captured the minds of many readers. Her book was an immediate bestseller, which funded more explorations.


How did Kingsley die?

She was serving as a nurse during the Second Boer War when she contracted what was thought to be typhoid. She died about two months later.


How old was Kingsley when she perished from typhoid in South Africa?

When she died in 1900 in South Africa, Kingsley was just 37 years old. Happily, she made the best of her adventures during her short time on Earth.


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Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

In the 19th century, women were expected to marry and to raise children. Mary Kingsley, however, had other plans. She disposed of society's norms, headed off for adventure and made a name for herself in the history books. How much do you know about this gutsy female adventurer?

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