The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal

The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal

Vicki Constantine Croke / Jul 17, 2019

The Lady and the Panda The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China s Most Exotic Animal A New York Times BestsellerHere is the true story of Ruth Harkness the Manhattan socialite who took on the quest that cost her husband his life and trekked to Tibet in to capture a bear that had

  • Title: The Lady and the Panda: The True Adventures of the First American Explorer to Bring Back China's Most Exotic Animal
  • Author: Vicki Constantine Croke
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 475
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • A New York Times BestsellerHere is the true story of Ruth Harkness, the Manhattan socialite who took on the quest that cost her husband his life and trekked to Tibet in 1936 to capture a bear that had for centuries lived in secret in a labyrinth of cold, lonely mountains.

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      Posted by:Vicki Constantine Croke
      Published :2018-09-03T03:21:03+00:00

    About "Vicki Constantine Croke"

      • Vicki Constantine Croke

        Vicki Constantine Croke has been covering pets and wildlife for than a decade, writing the Animal Beat column for The Boston Globe.Croke is the author of The Lady and the Panda, Animal ER, The Modern Ark, and has also written for Time, People, The Washington Post, and Popular Science, among others.A former writer and producer for CNN, she has been a contributing reporter for the National Public Radio environment show Living on Earth and consults on film and television projects, most recently a two hour documentary on gorillas for the AE channel.


    166 Comments

    1. I love reading about the exploits of interesting people traversing parts of the world I’ve never seen, and this exuberant biography of a Manhattan dress designer turned international explorer held me rapt with one caveat that I’ll explain at the end. Ruth Harkness did not come from a wealthy, sophisticated family, but with determination, a flair for design, and a savvy intelligence that allowed her to read people Harkness managed to create a cosmopolitan New York City life for herself, even [...]


    2. She floats through the air with the greatest of ease, the young fashionista on the flying trapeze. Or, a young, attractive rich girl who never worked a day in her life goes on fun jaunts in China and lucks herself into bringing a panda back to the United States. I have to respect the author for laying out an unvarnished book about a woman who was about as unrelateable to me as possible, and making me care.Reminiscent of the world of explorers pictured in the boyhood dreams of the old man in "Up, [...]


    3. This one really bothered me a lot. I like memoirs, and this one sounded like it would be fascinating, since the woman managed to bring back a baby panda, alive. She was the first one to do so, and the passion & love she had for the pandas is amazing. But her lifestyle was quite destructive, her choices were also destructive, and I think she changed people's lives not for the better. Very sad story in a lot of ways. I also found it interesting that her young husband who was 35 years old died [...]


    4. Somewhat interesting book about a woman venturing into what was considered a man's occupation. Ruth Harkness wanted to capture an elusive panda in the memory of her husband and bring it back alive to the states. She may have inadvertently caused a shift from the appeal of sending back only skins and parts to institutions to live specimens. But in doing so more pandas were killed or kept alive in inhumane conditions. With all the interest generated in capturing a live panda, China learned quickly [...]



    5. True story of a novice explored and game hunter, Ruth Harkness, who brings back the first live panda to the western world in 1936. Her idea of capturing a baby panda proved to the correct call, as mature pandas all died. I admired her pluck and courage, she was however supported by her team and Quentin Young and others who made her first foray into the wilds of Chine possible. Other trips she made and explorations in other countries, paled in comparison. While I first found myself championing he [...]


    6. The story of the first expedition was interesting, except after all that buildup, it was such a letdown how "easy" Harkness & co. got their first panda. It's also strange to say that they shot over 700 photographs but none came out because a piece of film got stuck in the camera. I'm really confused about this. Didn't they notice that everytime they opened the camera to load film?I'll have to agree with some things pointed out by other reviewers. This book was more about the lady than the pa [...]


    7. Got about 125 pages into the book before it was put away for keeps. I was enjoying the book okay, just not eager to pick it up again when I put it down. The style of writing is dramatic and engaging, and apparently the author is doing a LOT of quoting from sources. She definitely seems to be a big fan of Ruth Harkness, who does seem to be an incredible woman. But coming from a history research background, I wonder about the objective truth of the story she's telling. Authors must always decide w [...]


    8. Obviously I needed to read this book. After watching the movie some time ago and learning it was made after this book, I finally got to read it and it did not disappoint. It breaks my heart how many people were only after pandas for their skins, and in so doing, it makes me all the more grateful for this woman Ruth Harkness and her desire to catch them and keep them safe and healthy. It is because of her that I get to see them in person. And also because of her that I will one day hold a baby in [...]


    9. I've had this one on my shelf for a while, and I finally got around to reading it. Like pretty much everyone else I think giant pandas are the cutest. I love visiting the ones at the San Diego Zoo. This book chronicles the life of the woman who first brought pandas to the US, and outside of China for that matter. It's a little dry but the pursuit is interesting, especially for the 1930's. China was changing so much at the time and the search for a panda makes it sound like the wild west. If you' [...]


    10. Made me want to look for Ruth Harkness' book with the same title - she must have been a very interesting woman



    11. Croke has a great gift of writing nonfiction that reads like a novel. The story of Ruth Harkness was so interesting and nothing I was aware of before. This is a wonderful account of the first pioneers to capture and relocate pandas. I really love this book and it will be in my heart for a long time to come.


    12. Apparently I'm on a 'living with animals' kick again. I must be a masochist for this one. Since this is the true story of the first person to bring west a giant panda from China it takes place in the '30's. You know, at the height of the animal trade when millions of exotic animals were hunted and captured for zoos and hundreds of thousands of them died either in transit or because no one cared enough to care for them properly. Zoo goers were alerted to each new 'exhibit' with announcements of ' [...]


    13. A slog. I read the beginning of this book around 2009 and shelved it. In 2017 I decided it would be valuable to finish. Unfortunately, I was reminded why I abandoned it the first time.In addition to being slow in pacing and periodically focusing on routine events, this biography borders on cheerleading for its subject. The book defends, justifies, or softens poor choices or low points in Ruth Harkness’s life.One example of boosterism is a chapter applauding how cleverly Harkness evaded newspap [...]


    14. What an amazing woman and an incredible story!!!!! I had no idea that Panda's were such a relatively new species (as far as us in the western world knowing they existed). Ruth Harkness is an incredible woman. I admire her fearlessness and ability to find friends anywhere she goes. I was touched by her obivous love for the giant panda bears. It is crazy that in the 1930's when robust men were trying like crazy to be the first to catch a live panda bear that a woman would be the one to do it!! I w [...]


    15. "China is a country of unforgettable color, and often, quite unbidden, come vivid pictures to my mind--sometimes it is the golden roofs of the Imperial City in Peking, or again it is the yellow corn on the flat-roofed little stone houses in the country of the Tibetan border land" Ruth HarknessFebruary 19, 1936 William Harvest Harkness, Jr. lay dying in Shanghai, his bohemian, socialite wife, Ruth Harkness was in New York City, totally unaware of what her husband was facing. He had left for China [...]


    16. The story of Ruth Harkness, the American woman who went to China in the 1930s to finish up her late husband's plan to capture a live panda. My gosh, the world is so unfair because I will never have a dinosaur, I will never have a pygmy elephant, and I will never have a baby panda. It is madness how cute her baby pandas were. Harkness's story is genuinely interesting - she was a socialite and a fashionista and perfectly willing to rough it in the wilds of China to snatch a baby panda and the esse [...]


    17. This is the fascinating story of Ruth Harkness, the female explorer who took on her late husband's mission to bring back the first live panda to the United States back in the 1930's. The beginning of the book reads almost like a novel, but once Ruth's husband passes away and she departs for China, the story slows down a lot. There are a lot of mundane details leading up to the actual expedition. Once we begin to read about the actual capture of the panda, I was disappointed at the lack of depth. [...]


    18. After Ruth Harkness' husband dies in China while trying to bring back the first live Giant Panda back to the United States, Ruth is pushed to continue his journey. At the time she travels to China (late 1930s), American women are not known for traveling to far off places and they are definitely not known for adventuring, which could be both brutal and dangerous. Ruth is determined to find a live Giant Panda. She eventually succeeds (twice!) and becomes a media darling and really begins to put in [...]


    19. Ruth Harkness is a character worthy of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. She was an adventuresome, dress designing, hard drinking, American socialite. That she managed to import the first giant panda into the United States in the 1930s is remarkable. Accomplishing it again a second time is plain amazing, given that the Japanese/Chinese war of 1937 was heating up and World War II was looming internationally. I didn’t like Harkness’ personality and resented that the author felt compelled to put a [...]


    20. Um. OBSESSED. Absolutely, positively obsessed with this book. I can't believe I've never heard of Ruth Harkness before, and am so, so glad that I finally did. Every detail of her adventure, from start to finished, is detailed extremely well, with plenty of her own thoughts/voice from letters she wrote during the events. Her passion for China and its people seeps through the pages, along with the almost divine aspect of her journey. The result is a total adventure story, to the T. She's basically [...]


    21. This was a gift from a dear friend and I thank him for it because I probably would not have bought it myself. I thoroughly enjoyed it! Kudos to this woman Ruth Harkness. After her husband died on an expedition in China to bring back to the USA the first giant panda she decided to literally follow in his footsteps and capture one herself. This was not an easy trek especially at that time for a woman. Although I have a difficult time with capturing animals for any reason the story of her adventure [...]


    22. Following the publication of her article on Harkness in The Washington Post, Croke discovered hundreds of letters from Harkness's trip to China. Armed with this correspondence, as well as hours of new interviews conducted for the project, Croke, the "Animal Beat" writer for the Boston Globe and author of The Modern Ark (1997), has produced this well-researched, well-written tale. The Lady and the Panda succeeds as a grand adventure and celebration of an overlooked independent woman whom Croke de [...]


    23. This is a biographical account of the first panda brought to a US Zoo. No, not San Diego in the 1990s- but rather, Brookfield in Chicago in the 1930s. The author, Vicki Croke has a previous book on the history of zoos. Her interest in the subject is confirmed with this work. This book is written with the focus on Ruth Harkness, the remarkable woman that made the adventure and the panda come together. A related tale by Michael Kiefer (Chasing the Panda)tells the role of two Chinese-American natur [...]


    24. The Lady and the Panda is the story of Ruth Harkness, who brought the first giant panda to the United States to live at Brookfield Zoo. Her husband, William, dreamed of being able to capture a live panda to show in a zoological context; however, he died on an expedition of throat cancer. Ruth Harkness picked up where he left off and traveled to China. Against the odds, she procured an infant giant panda. She traveled to China several times after that in hopes of finding another panda, and was su [...]


    25. I liked it. It wasn't as engaging as I had hoped but it was still a wonderful novelization of Ruth Harkness's journey through China as she tries to fund a panda and bring it to the United States; all while dealing with the loss of her husband and emerging romantic feelings for her guide. There is so much more to this book than just panda hunting, it has drama, romance, and so much emotion as you feel connected to Ruth while she is on her journey. The book is a historic remembrance of this woman [...]


    26. I really liked this book! It is a biography of Ruth Hawkness, the first American explorer to bring back a giant panda alive during hte 1930s. When I think of biographies, I don't usually think of exciting reading, but this book proved that wrong. It was very well researched and written. It took me a little while to read just because I was so busy and some parts didn't leave me with a desire to keep reading, but I am sure glad I did. For the most part however, it kept me wanting to know more and [...]


    27. This book focuses more on the Lady than the Panda, in fact it particularly annoyed me that the author completely forgot to finish the story of the remaining panda, Mei-Mei. The Lady of the book is Mrs. Harkness, a woman who loses her perfect mate to the wilderness and the search for the giant panda. Bereft, she becomes possessed to finish his quest and goes herself, falling in love with China. However that did not prevent her from stealing the baby panda from China and giving it to the States, w [...]


    28. I digested this book by CD's. Lorna Raver's reading makes me think she's wearing long satin gloves, clutching a martini in one hand while gazing upward, fondling her long pearl necklace with the other. Pretty sure she's wearing a genuine mink shawl as well. She pauses simply to take a sip of the martini.In all seriousness, I'd never heard of Ruth Harkness and I'm most certainly glad I got to peek in on her explorations. I would like to read Harkness's book (of the same name,) however that text h [...]


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