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I’m currently interning at the American Museum of Natural History, working on their CLIR Hidden Collections project. The project has focused on the creation of EAC-CPF (Encoded Archival Context – Corporate bodies, Persons, and Families) records, in an attempt to highlight the individuals associated with AMNH expeditions. One of the goals of the project was to shed light on people in connection with these expeditions that researchers and the public may not be aware. While working on a record for explorer Carl Ethan Akeley, it struck me just how much one particular individual was not given more attention: his wife, Mary L. Jobe Akeley. The archives at AMNH house the Mary L. Jobe Akeley collection (Call nos. A342-A344), gifted by her estate in 1967 and 1977. The information within this substantial collection was used to craft an EAC-CPF record for Jobe herself, but I decided to go one step further to bring to light the accomplishments of this remarkable woman.

            There is an antiquated saying: behind every great man there is a great woman. This was never truer (and perhaps misleading) in the case of Mary Lenore Jobe Akeley.  In the world of explorers, it is Carl Ethan Akeley’s name that is more commonly known.  From his work with the Chicago Field Museum to his creation of the Akeley Motion Picture camera to his passion and desire to create the African Hall exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History (now entitled the Akeley Hall of African Mammals), it is Carl Akeley who we mostly remember. Few laypersons are aware of Mary Jobe Akeley and the work she had been performing long before she married, and well after.

             Born on January 29, 1878 in Tappan, Ohio, Jobe grew up with aspirations of being an explorer. She was bright, attending college by age 15 and earning two degrees, a Bachelor of Philosophy, and a Master of Arts by 1909. In 1930, she received an honorary degree of Doctor of Literature from Mt. Union College.  While in school she taught grammar and high school and was a member of numerous faculties, including the Head of the Department of history and Civics at the New York State Normal and Training School at Cortland and member of the Department of History at the Normal College of the City of New York(1). Throughout all of this, Jobe also began embarking on expeditions.

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          Jobe’s main area of interest was the Canadian Rockies. Throughout the span of her life she would participate in ten expeditions to British Columbia. Her first two expeditions were in 1905 and 1907, where she helped botanize for Dr. Charles Shaw of the University of Pittsburgh. She would return in 1909, this time with Professor Herschel C. Parker, assisting in the Canadian Topographical Survey Expedition. Her next two expeditions, in the summers of 1910 and 1912 found Jobe exploring areas around Mt. Assiniboine and the Great Divide. During this time, she not only took numerous notes and photographs while on her expeditions, but she also began lecturing at various institutions about her discoveries (a newspaper article from 1913 indicated she gave over 40 lectures on the topic in 1912 alone) (1).

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