Manuscript by Mary Kingsley

Scope and Content

Holograph manuscript of a speech [opposing a motion in a debate] on women's suffrage

Administrative / Biographical History

Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900) was the daughter of George Henry Kingsley (1827-1892) and Mary Bailey and the niece of Charles Kingsley (1819-1875). She is most famous as an explorer, ethnologist and travel writer. She lectured widely and wrote on her travels. Her most famous works include Travels in West Africa (1897), West African Studies (1899) and The Story of West Africa (1899). She worked as a nurse during the Boer War, departing for South Africa in March 1900 but dying in June of that year of a fever contracted whilst nursing Boer prisoners of war. Mary Kingsley is known to have deliberately distanced herself from the women's movement and to have adopted a conservative position with regard to questions of equality, opposing, for example, the admission of women to learned societies. On 27 February 1900, in one of her last public engagements before leaving the country, Mary Kingsley is known to have participated in a debate on women's suffrage. This is recorded in a letter which she wrote to Sir Matthew Nathan: 'I have been opposing women having the parliamentary vote this afternoon and have had a grand time of it and have been called an idealist and had poetry slung at me in chunks. Argument was impossible so I offered to fight the secretary in the back yard but she would not so you can all write me down impracticable.'

Access Information

This collection is available for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit


Description prepared by Jennifer Haynes, Head of Special Collections, The Women's Library.

Alternative Form Available

A photocopy of the original mss and typed transcript were donated in July 1988.

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds a letter of Mary Kingsley in its autograph letter collection, 9/ALC Vol.XVII, 1899. A letter from Mary Kingsley to Sir Matthew Nathan is held in the Western Manuscripts Department of the Bodleian Library, Oxford University, ref. MS. Nathan 133, fols 94-5. Further papers of Mary Kingsley are scattered. The Royal Commonwealth Society Library at Cambridge University Library holds correspondence and articles, 1895-1900, whilst further correspondence may be found at the Natural History Museum (Gunther Collection), at the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies (MSS Afr s 825-27, 1525-26; MSS Afr s 1801/2); in the British Library (Add MSS 54914-15; Add MS 68892E), at the University of Liverpool (D674), at the London School of Economics (BLPES/MOREL/F8/97), at the Royal Geographical Society, and at the Parliamentary Archives (Strachey papers).