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How Jane Goodall Became Jane Goodall

What gives Jane Goodall the most hope these days?

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Mother and baby chimpanzee

Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned scientist and conservationist, but you already knew that. I learned more about her story and how she reached her dreams in my recent interview with her.

She started her career in the late 1950s. Back then women had limited career opportunities such as being a nurse, teacher, or secretary, but this didn’t dampen Jane’s drive. Jane went to school to learn secretarial skills and get a job, but Jane’s mother supported her impossible dream of going to Africa and encouraged her to make it happen.

Dr. Goodall said, “That’s when my dream began. I will grow up, go to Africa, live with wild animals, and write books about them. Everybody laughed at me. How would I do that? There was a war on in Africa that was far away. We didn’t have any money. I was just a girl. Only my mother said, ‘If you really want something like this, you’ll have to work really hard. Take advantage of an opportunity, but don’t give up.'”

She hated her secretarial classes but these skills helped her land a career-launching job with famed scientist Dr. Louis Leakey in Kenya. Jane had called Dr. Leakey to discuss her love of animals, and Dr. Leakey was blown away by Jane’s knowledge and passion. The timing was perfect because Dr. Leakey was looking for a new secretary, and the rest is history.

In 1958, Leakey sent Goodall to London to study primate behavior with Osman Hill and primate anatomy with John Napier. Leakey raised funds, and in 1960, Goodall went to Gombe Stream National Park, becoming the first of what would come to be called The Trimates. She was accompanied by her mother, whose presence was necessary to satisfy the safety requirements. Jane blazed a trail for future female scientists with the fearless pursuit of her dreams.

Jane continues to educate and inspire people with speeches all over the world. At 86 years young, she’s not resting on her laurels instead she’s still leading the fight to educate the world on climate change and conserving our one and only planet. 

The arc of her career is an inspiration for all of us. Pursue something that excites you. Do what it takes. Seize opportunities. And then dedicate one’s life to fostering knowledge and making the world a better place. 

And if you are a parent, don’t underestimate the power of your words and support as a parent. Your support can help your children achieve great things in their lives.

If you’d like to hear more of Jane’s story, click here to listen to my Remarkable People podcast interview. By the way, have you wondered what animal Jane Goodall would like to come back as? You’ll find out in my interview…

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Photo credit: Larry Washburn/GettyImages
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