Last year, I expected to start my grade ten eminent project off with a bang. I thought that my intro post would state that I had known exactly who I wanted to study all along, and that I was completely ready to dive straight into the project. After all, it was round two, and I knew exactly how to sail through the process smoothly. However, ten months later, I realized that this would not be the case. Three weeks into the project, I was still spinning around in a circle, not knowing who the focus of my eminent would be on.
I was struggling with deciding between three people, all of which had traits that I admired, yet also lacked specific qualities that I valued. I wanted the person for my final eminent project to be exactly who I was searching for. Finally, one night it all clicked. I realized that I had been looking for someone I had known all along. Meet Joy Adamson, the writer, painter, and animal rights activist.
Joy’s original name was Friederike Victoria Gessner when she was born on January 20, 1910. Her father (Victor) and mother (Traute) divorced when Joy was ten, so she lived with her grandmother in Opava, Czech Republic which was known as Troppau, Austria Silesia at the time. Being the daughter of a wealthy architect, she had many privileges despite being female. Joy studied the arts, and wanted to become a concert pianist when she grew up. She was also interested in psychoanalysis (for all you TALONS students studying Freud, you know what I’m talking about) and archaeology, although in the end, she studied medicine.
Her family had always enjoyed hunting, so when Joy was a teen, the estate gamekeeper allowed her to try it for herself. After shooting a deer, Joy realized that she did not want to kill animals as a sport, and promised herself never to do it again. In my opinion, this was the moment that started Joy on her path to success as a wildlife preservationist.
I admire the fact that despite being such an influential person, Joy didn’t live such a perfect life. She divorced twice, each marriage adding to a piece of her identity. Her first husband, Viktor von Klarwill, sent her to Kenya where she lived the rest of her life, and her second husband, Peter Bally, gave her the nickname “Joy” which is the name she is still known by today. Her final marriage to George Adamson, a game warden, marked the start of her career with working with animals.
I first saw Joy in a movie called “Born Free”, based off of the book she wrote describing her experience rescuing three lion cubs after George had shot the mother in self defense. It followed her adventure returning one of the cubs, a lioness named Elsa, back into the wild. She fought several obstacles, such as overcoming her emotional attachment with Elsa, and relocating Elsa’s cubs when they had been causing trouble in a certain area. Through her books (including “Living Free” 1961 and “Forever Free” 1962) she reached out to the world to show the importance of protecting wildlife and letting them live how they are meant to be: free.
I always loved animals, so I felt a connection to her immediately, and admired her work. I chose to research her not only because we have many similarities, but also because her message hit home for me. She is such a passionate and determined person, and her effort has changed the way people see wild animals. Thanks to her, the Born Free Foundation and World Wildlife Fund exist, and she leaves a mark on the hearts of the many people who have heard her story.
Her death remains a mysterious turn of events. Joy went on an evening stroll on January 3, 1980 at Shaba Game Reserve where she had been in the middle of a study. The next day, her body was found with evidence of wounds from an animal attack. Later, people realized that the wounds were actually from a human, and one of her workers were arrested as the suspect. The motives for this murder remain undetermined.
Although she doesn’t live on, her legacy certainly does. She still has an impact on me, ever since I first watched “Born Free” as a child. I am very excited to research her for the next several weeks, and to have the privilege of becoming her for a day on Night of the Notables. Overall, I am glad I found her for this project. She certainly is a Joy to the Wildlife World.