Wild Animals, Gentle Women Critical Essays

Margery Facklam


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The first chapter of the book places the formal study of ethology in the context of human history, establishing a link between early mythology about animals and the development of ethology as a science by Lorenz. The scope of ethology is not clearly defined, however, and the reader is left wondering what ethologists, unless they are like the exceptional women included in the book, actually do. It would be helpful to the young person looking for a career if the book described more clearly the extent and range of opportunities in the field of ethology.

The women’s careers in Wild Animals, Gentle Women reveal how people become involved with ethology and how they learn to cope with the practical problems of studying animal behavior. The author does not attempt to portray the whole life of each woman, nor does she place them in a historical context except in relation to the field of animal behavior. Thus the modern reader may not realize how courageous and socially different some of these women appeared as they embarked on their adventures. Except in her choice of women as subjects, Facklam’s emphasis is on the adventures of these women rather than on their contribution to feminism.

Unsentimental in her observations about animal life and the women who study this field, Facklam nevertheless tends to focus on the positive traits of her subjects, crediting them with bravery, ingenuity, patience, and environmental wisdom, and ignoring any...

(The entire section is 552 words.)