Mary Kingsley: Imperial Adventuress

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Victorian traveller Mary Kingsley has been portrayed as a victim of 19th-century attitudes towards women, a brave and daring explorer, an anti-imperialist agitator and even a feminist heroine. In this biography, Dea Birkett examines and then confronts all these portraits. Mary Kingsley was neither victim nor rebel, but a late Victorian woman who manipulated the boundaries of her life without ever openly overstepping them. She argued against women's suffrage and for absolute differences between the races. She campaigned to prevent women becoming members of the learned societies in Britain, yet canoed up rapids in West Africa. Africa gave her a new life yet in the end it killed her.