Moving Animals

The Moving Animals project is well represented in the newly published book Gender and Animals in History, Yearbook of Women’s History (Amsterdam University Press), edited by Sandra Swart. Vanessa Bateman, Simone Schleper, and Monica Vasile each have a chapter, accessible open access here. The book was launched with an event last week at Utrecht University, where Swart taught a PhD masterclass on “Gender and/in Animal History,” which Vincent Bijman participated in.

Abstracts below:

Vanessa Bateman
“Martha Maxwell on the Frontier of Colorado, Modern Taxidermy, and ‘Women’s Work’”
This chapter sheds light on an overlooked but significant figure in the history of natural history museum display practices. Described as the ‘Colorado Huntress’ and a ‘Modern Diana’ by the press, Martha Maxwell (1831–1881) was the first American woman to collect and taxidermy her own animal specimens, beginning in the late 1860s. She opened a natural history museum in Colorado. Maxwell was acclaimed for her naturalistic animal tableaux and was invited to share her collection at the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, where she declared her exhibit ‘Woman’s Work’. Revisiting Maxwell’s contributions to her field reveals contradictions of the intersections between gender, animality, and environmental ethics and the blurring of boundaries between art and science, amateur and professional, and nature and culture so typical of nineteenth-century natural history practices.

Simone Schleper
“Naturalizing Collaboration: Women, Lions, and Behavioural Field Research in East Africa during the 1970s”
By the mid-1970s, the last strongholds of postcolonial, white, and male- dominated research garrisons in places such as the Tanzanian Serengeti experienced an unprecedented inflow of women researchers with credentials in their own right, either as independent researchers, or as parts of collaborative couples. Many of them came to work on big cats. Based on archival research, interviews, and the close reading of wildlife monographs, this chapter discusses a twofold shift that occurred in both research practices and research questions after more women and couples started to research lions in the Serengeti. A new emphasis on the role of collaboration between individual adult lions required long-term team observations and allowed for a ‘naturalization’ of cooperative fieldwork practices between research partners. At the same time, individual lions, females in particular, like the women who studied them, attained a greater role and perhaps more ‘agency’ in the accounts on their lives and their prides.

Monica Vasile
“Reproduction against Extinction: The Value and Labours of Two Przewalski’s Mares”
This chapter unearths the biographies of two Przewalski’s mares, who were traded, bred, and exhibited as zoo animals, who were coerced into mating and had their female choice curtailed. Yet, these two mares played a crucial role in preventing the extinction of their species. The first mare, Lucka, born during the Second World War at Prague Zoo, became known for her prolific reproduction despite being an atypical descendant of a hybrid, part of what some called a ‘contaminated’ breeding line. The second mare, Orlica 3, was the last wild horse captured in the Dzungarian Gobi after the war. Her introduction to the captive population signified an infusion of wildness and genetic diversity into generations of captive-bred horses. Their human–animal histories shed light on how human values directed selective breeding, shaping reproductive lives, and animal’s bodies, ultimately shaping what many humans consider to be the last wild horse species on the planet.