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May French Sheldon

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Sheldon in 1891

Mary French Sheldon (May 10, 1847 – 1936), as author May French Sheldon, was an American author and explorer.


Early years and educationEdit

Mary French was born May 10, 1847, at Bridgewater, Pennsylvania. Her father was Joseph French, a civil engineer, and her mother Elizabeth J. French (née Poorman), a spiritualist who later practiced "galvanic medicine" in Boston, as did her sister, Dr. Belle French Patterson.

She was educated in the United States and overseas, studying art and developing into an author and ethnologist.


In 1876, she married an American, Eli Lemon Sheldon, a banker, and they moved to London where they established publishing firms.

Sheldon is noted as a translator of Flaubert's Salammbô, and was the author of papers and essays. As a writer, Sheldon wrote a number of novels, short stories, and essays.[1]

She acquired fame for an expedition. In 1891, inspired by the activities of Henry Morton Stanley, who was a family friend, she left London for Africa. She obtained assistance from African peoples as she explored around Lake Chala. Her journey from Mombassa to Mount Kilimanjaro caused a sensation because she was not accompanied by a white companion (although she was hardly unaccompanied - she had 150 Zanzibari porters and guides).[2] She returned with ethnographic materials, wrote on her experience, and undertook a lecture tour.

French Sheldon received multiple awards for her exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition, and was appointed membership in societies such as the Writer's Club and the Anthropological Society of Washington. She was made a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society,[1] among the first fifteen women to receive this honour, in November 1892.[3]


  1. ^ a b Eagle 1895, p. 131-.
  2. ^ Larson, Frances 1976- (2009). An infinity of things how Sir Henry Wellcome collected the world. Oxford University Press. p. 225. ISBN 9780199554461. OCLC 838260896.
  3. ^ Bell & McEwan 1996, p. 295-312.



Further readingEdit

External linksEdit