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Biography & Autobiography Science & Technology

Smitten by Giraffe

My Life as a Citizen Scientist

by (author) Anne Innis Dagg

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2021
Science & Technology, Women's Studies, Ethology (Animal Behavior)
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2021
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price

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When Anne Innis saw her first giraffe at the age of three, she was smitten. She knew she had to learn more about this marvellous animal. Twenty years later, now a trained zoologist, she set off alone to Africa to study the behaviour of giraffe in the wild. Subsequently, Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey would be driven by a similar devotion to study the behaviour of wild apes.

In Smitten by Giraffe the noted feminist reflects on her scientific work as well as the leading role she has played in numerous activist campaigns. On returning home to Canada, Anne married physicist Ian Dagg, had three children, published a number of scientific papers, taught at several local universities, and in 1967 earned her PhD in biology at the University of Waterloo. Dagg was continually frustrated in her efforts to secure a position as a tenured professor despite her many publications and exemplary teaching record. Finally she opted instead to pursue her research as an independent “citizen scientist,” while working part-time as an academic advisor. Dagg would spend many years fighting against the marginalization of women in the arts and sciences.

Boldly documenting widespread sexism in universities while also discussing Dagg’s involvement with important zoological topics such as homosexuality, infanticide, sociobiology, and taxonomy, Smitten by Giraffe offers an inside perspective on the workings of scientific research and debate, the history of academia, and the rise of second-wave feminism. A new preface relates Dagg’s experience as the subject of the documentary The Woman Who Loves Giraffes.

About the author

Anne Innis Dagg earned a biology degree from the University of Toronto and a PhD in animal behaviour from the University of Waterloo. She is the author of The Feminine Gaze: A Canadian Compendium of Non-Fiction Women Authors and Their Books, 1836-1945 (2001) and Pursuing Giraffe: A 1950s Adventure (2005), both published by WLU Press, and many other books. The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (2018) is a documentary about her life’s work.

Anne Innis Dagg's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Smitten by Giraffe is very readable, even for those who don't gravitate towards books about science. It can feel disjointed, jumping as it does from Dagg's research to her feminist activism and back again, but it is a memoir, after all: life doesn't move in a straight line, especially for trailblazers. Reading her life story begs the question: How many thousands of Canadian women scientists couldn't persist as Dagg did? How many brilliant female scientists and engineers did we lose because they simply ran out of steam in the face of such dispiriting sexism? And how much poorer is our society, in terms of knowledge and innovation, because of it?" Sarah Lolley, Montreal Review of Books

“A delightful book in many ways, Smitten by Giraffe provides some much-needed, even rare, insights into the challenges of being a field scientist, and especially a female one. Readers will find this book rewarding, entertaining, and informative.” Holly Dressel, co-author of Good News for a Change

"The love and study of giraffes may not seem like a natural segue into confronting sexism in academia, but for Dagg it is just that. Engaging anecdotes of her time in the wilds of Africa studying giraffes make for an interesting juxtaposition of her life as a woman in the male-dominant and sexist environment of Canadian higher education in the second half of the 20th century. Recommended." Choice

"In this plainspoken memoir, Canadian zoologist chronicles her unusual life as a "citizen scientist" and the deeply ingrained sexism she experienced in academia. Rather than quietly giving up, Dagg chose to advocate for other women in academia and continue her own work as an independent scientist, doing research without academic affiliation or support. Dagg's passionate engagement with the world shines through in all the experiences she recounts." Publishers Weekly

"This compelling memoir brings research to life, reminding us that there is no research without a researcher. Dagg’s is a quintessentially Canadian story of survival despite the odds." Herizons

Other titles by Anne Innis Dagg