When I think of a woman stepping out of her comfort zone into a completely new world, I think of Dr. Jane Goodall.
It was in July of 1960 that she embarked on a journey that would completely shape human interaction and understanding of chimpanzees. At the age of just 26, Jane agreed to live in long term isolation with chimpanzees in Tanzania in order to study them. At the time she had no formal college degree or scientific education but her mentor and employer, anthropologist Louis Leakey, thought Jane had what it took to do the job. The fact that she said yes, set the groundwork for one of the most inspiring and courageous female stories we’ve ever heard.
To satisfy British authorities, Jane brought along her mother to Gombe, Tanzania, where she was to study the chimpanzees. Jane spent months in Gombe and it took time, nearly two years, but eventually the chimps she observed became comfortable enough around her that they came to Jane in search of bananas. Once they really became comfortable with her Jane could enhance her observations. Her story is unique and her study of chimps focused on their individuality, distinct personalities, and emotions. She made numerous discoveries about chimps that previously we had no record of — chimps have language, they make tools, they have social hierarchy. She even mimicked their behavior and spent time eating their food and living in trees. She spent years living in Gombe and received a PhD for the thesis she wrote their. Additionally she’s written books, articles, worked as a professor, and a lecturer.
Today, Jane is as busy as ever. She often holds public lectures in which she discusses her years at Gombe, the state of chimpanzees today, and each individuals potential to incite a positive change in the world. She also works closely to encourage African nations to preserve natural habitats for their native animals. Jane is a hero, an inspiration, and a woman who has taught the world as much as she’s learned from it.
In honor of Dr. Goodall and her 81st birthday today, here are just a few words of wisdom from the woman who inspires us so much.
“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”
“No matter the color of our skin, the clothing we wear, or the language we use, our hearts beat with the same blood.” “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.”
“The least I can do is speak out for the hundreds of chimpanzees who, right now, sit hunched, miserable and without hope, staring out with dead eyes from their metal prisons. They cannot speak for themselves.”
“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.”
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
“A sense of wonder is desperately important.”
“If you really want something and really work hard, and take advantage of opportunities and never give up, you will find a way.”
“Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don’t change.”
“My mission is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature.”
Happy birthday Jane. And thank you for all of the important work you have done.