May French Sheldon

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Sheldon in 1891

Mary French Sheldon (1847–1936), as author May French Sheldon, was an American publisher[dubious ], author, and explorer.

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 America and overseas, studying art and developing into an author and ethnologist. She married an American, Eli Lemon Sheldon, a banker, in 1876, and they moved to London where they established publishing firms.

May French Sheldon is noted as a translator of Flaubert's Salammbô, and author of papers and essays, but acquired fame for an expedition. In 1891 she left London for Africa, unaccompanied, seeking assistance amongst the African peoples as she explored around Lake Chala. 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 15 women to receive this honour, in November 1892.[2]

As a writer Sheldon wrote a number of novels, short stories, and essays.[3]


  1. ^ Oldham, Mary Kavanaugh. ""An African Expedition." (biographical notice on author)". The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. University of Pennsylvania. p. 131. Retrieved 22 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Bell, Morag; McEwan, Cheryl (November 1996). "The Admission of Women Fellows to the Royal Geographical Society, 1892-1914; the Controversy and the Outcome". The Geographical Journal. 162 (3): 295–312. doi:10.2307/3059652. 
  3. ^ biography attached to an edition of her account of her travels in Africa

Further reading[edit]

  • Boisseau, Tracey J. "White Queen: May French-Sheldon and the Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity." Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. 2004. 258p. [May French-Sheldon (American)(1847-1936)].