Jane Goodall

Animal Rights Activist

Why She’s Amazing

Jane Goodall didn’t want to be a princess. She wanted to be more.

Beginning at a young age, Jane was fascinated by animals. Her strong interest compelled her to learn more and more about animals. Eventually, it took her all the way to Africa, where she did her most famous work with chimpanzees. Jane’s groundbreaking work created one of the most trailblazing studies of primates in modern times.

While her work with chimpanzees is her most well known accomplishment, Jane did much more for the scientific community. She was a large supporter of teaching the world about the ethical treatment of animals. Although this was an uncommon practice, Jane was undeterred and shared her beliefs with people of all ages. She wrote a children’s book, The Chimpanzee Family Book, to teach children a humane approach to wildlife. In 1989, it won the Unicef/Unesco Children’s Book-of-the-Year Award.

Jane earned numerous awards for her work with chimpanzees as well as providing education on the need for humane treatment of animals. Her awards include the following:

  • Gold Medal of Conservation from the San Diego Zoological Society (1974)
  • J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize (1984)
  • Schweitzer Medal of the Animal Welfare Institute (1987)
  • National Geographic Society Centennial Award (1988)
  • Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences (1990)
  • Jane was also named not only a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations in 2002, but also a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II of England in 2003.

“Everyone laughed at my dreams.” – Jane Goodall

Her Determination

As a young girl, Jane would look out her window and monitor the behavior of the animals around her. Going to Africa was always her dream, but the financial resources and societal support to do so were not readily available. “Everyone laughed at my dreams. I was supposed to be a secretary in Bournemouth,” explained Jane. She persevered and worked two jobs to save enough money to follow her dream.

Jane’s dedication paid off, and she earned a trip to Kenya to become a secretary for Louis Leaky, an anthropologist. He believed that a long-term study of chimpanzees would provide a better understanding of their behavior. In a male-dominated field, Jane stood out and was asked to lead the project. She agreed amid protests that she was a woman and had no prior scientific training.

Jane was undeterred. What she lacked in formal education, she made up for in passion and natural talent. She knew innately to approach the chimpanzees slowly and take the time to build their trust. Jane had a special gift as she was even allowed to interact with the young while the parents just watched, a special feat since chimpanzees are extremely protective of their young.

Jane succeeded when almost all but Leaky doubted her. She proved that with a combination of determination and a strong sense of self, you can accomplish anything you set out to do.

A True Inspiration

Jane accomplished something that no other scientist has – she was accepted by groups of animals as one of their own. Time and again, she found incredible similarities between animals and humans, and this further strengthened her resolve to promote the ethical treatment of animals. Her work has been an inspiration for scientists, anthropologists, business as corporate citizens and so many more.

A love of animals and an inquisitive spirit were the only tools that Goodall possessed in the beginning, but they took her far. By constantly setting high standards, refusing to succumb to others’ opinions and believing in herself, Jane became a visionary in her field. Today, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, which Jane started with a group of Tanzania students in 1991, serves as the Jane Goodall Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program with nearly 150,000 members in more than 130 countries.

Her mother’s advice provides continued inspiration to Jane and to us all – “My mother always taught us that if people don’t agree with you, the important thing is to listen to them. But if you’ve listened to them carefully and you still think that you’re right, then you must have the courage of your convictions.”

Fun Facts:

  • Jane’s father gave her a chimpanzee toy when she was a baby. It was named Jubilee, and she still has it.
  • During her first study, Jane was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and a pair of binoculars.
  • Her first attempt to bond with the chimpanzees failed, but she didn’t give up.
  • Jane was only the 8th person allowed to pursue a Ph.D. without first earning a baccalaureate degree at Cambridge University.
  • Jane endured criticism for naming the chimpanzees with which she worked, rather then giving them numbers.