The world around us is particularly captivating, especially because of the access to information we have at our fingertips. With access to the internet and to a wide variety of books and literature in our local library, it is easier than ever to find facts about wildlife.
At one time, countless hours of research were done by some notable (and some lesser-known) individuals to provide us with some of the information that we have today.
When I worked at a bookstore, one author people frequently asked me about was John James Audubon. At times, people would simply ask for Audubon books. Thus, it became clear to me that Audubon was pretty famous for his books focused on birds.
There was a great thirst to learn about different types of birds, but there was so much more to identifying birds than just the actual animal itself. In 1876, Genevieve Estelle Jones visited the Philadelphia Exposition, where she was introduced to Audobon’s fascinating illustrations. Since she was young, she had been interested in fowl nests and their eggs. However, there were little to no studies conducted or illustrations made on them – including in Audobon’s great works.
Genevieve suffered from heartache and sorrow due to a broken engagement, which led the young woman to visit with a friend in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents were not comfortable with the behaviors the man she was in love with possessed, which lead them to the difficult decision of breaking things off. She was encouraged by her parents, Nelson and Virginia, and her brother, Howard, to pursue her vision of creating her own book.
Genevieve’s volumes would include illustrations and research done on 130 bird species nests and eggs, which would provide a necessary resource for the future – a work that she had initially dreamed of doing illustrations on all American birds. This would have resulted in 320 species.
Genevieve’s dream project was brought to a standstill when she grew immensely ill with Typhoid fever, which also affected Genevieve’s mother, Virginia, and her brother, Howard. The illness took its toll on the young woman, but she was resolute that her project would continue. No matter the outcome of her condition, Genevieve worked with her mother to continue on with the illustrations, and the work persisted – even after she passed away from her illness at the young age of 32.
The project was fulfilled in 1886, seven years after Genevieve had passed – but the project did not come without the stress of some obstacles along the way. Virginia proceeded to illustrate, which proved to be tough with the Typhoid fever harming her vision. Eventually, her vision was lost due to the stress on her eyes.
The life of the Jones family wasn’t an easy one – no one could anticipate the outcome that their life would end up with, just as we can’t foresee where our story will end. Nonetheless, what’s inspirational to me about Genevieve, is the fact that she strived to pursue this while faced with the uncertainty that is this illness.
Furthermore, it’s inspiring that her family encouraged her to begin and pursue this in the first place. They believed in Genevieve and her vision so much, that they sacrificed a great deal to see that her dream came to light. During the process of educating the world, they demonstrated to us how family, no matter what happens or when, be it built through blood relations or simply through those who love and care about us, is always there for us. This is what inspires me about this woman and this family.
Genevieve’s illustrations can be found throughout various resources online, as well more information can be found locally.
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