On the 8th March, the world will be celebrating International Women’s Day. All around the globe women have been making astounding contributions throughout history, often not getting the recognition they deserve.
To celebrate some of our own unsung heroes, we’ve put together a list of amazing women who have contributed to zoology through the Zoological Society of London.
Sophia Raffles is the first woman to become a fellow of a learned society. In fact, she joined the Zoological Society of London in 1826, making ZSL the first society to admit women.
While her husband is famous for his exotic deeds, Sophia was also braving these travels alongside him at a time when most women would elect to spend their time safe in the British countryside.
After her husband’s death, Sophia wrote about their time together and created her husband’s biography.
When the First World War broke out many new positions opened up to women. In May 1917, Evelyn took up the position of Assistant Curator of Insects at ZSL London Zoo.
(This, of course, was after she also aided the British allies by using her fluency in German to help unmask British companies friendly to the Germans.)
Stepping into her role at ZSL London Zoo, Evelyn found the Insect House to be sorely lacking (it was, in fact, mostly made up of pretty looking flowers) so she took up her net and used a billy-can to collect new stocks – she even got local children to help.
Impressing her superiors, Evelyn became the first female Insect House Curator in 1920. This new position allowed her to pursue her passion for bugs further and she soon became renowned for the lengths she would go to collect exotic species.
Cheesman was the first woman to undergo a solo trip around the South Pacific – a journey even men refused to undertake on their own! In her lifetime she led 8 expeditions to the south pacific, her last at the age of 73. During her travels she accomplished amazing feats such as befriending a tribe of cannibals and getting stuck in a giant spider’s web!
Some of Procter’s most notable works were in the Reptile House, a structure that she aided in the design of and was the first purpose-built building of its kind in the world. You can still find a bust of Joan when entering the Reptile House, which is still being used today by our own keepers.
Scientifically, Joan presented her first zoological paper to ZSL at the age of 19 and continued to be well regarded in the herpetology throughout her lifetime.
Miriam’s credit within the scientific world was so great that she was one of the few women to ever be on good terms with the eccentric geneticist E.B. Ford, who famously campaigned against the admission of female Fellows to All Souls College (more fool you, sir!).
One of her most famous discoveries was identifying how the jumping mechanism works in fleas, establishing them as the most incredible high jumper in the animal kingdom. She also published the hugely successful book ‘Fleas, Flukes and Cuckoos’, which looked at the parasites of the animal world.
Miriam’s legacy still continues on to this day, as another of her amazing achievements was to be a founding member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Her most famous quote is: “I must say, I find everything interesting!”
Select a blog
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
Find out more about life in our B.U.G.S exhibit
A new Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.
See the latest ranges, updates and special offers from our exciting new online shop.
Excerpts from ZSL's award winning members' magazine.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
Discover more about the UK's biggest zoo with our fun blog posts!
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.