It all started with a curious nine-year-old girl and a question she asked her mother. Where in their hometown of Lyme Regis was a statue of Mary Anning, a pioneer Victorian fossil hunter who, as she recently discovered, lived and worked there?

No, she had to tell her outraged daughter Anya Pearson. Enning’s lifelong discoveries – including the search for the first skeleton of an ichthyosaur at just 12 years old – may have profoundly shaped the new science of paleontology, but in her own city of Dorset and beyond, she was largely forgotten.

Schoolgirls Ivy Swire are now 15 years old, and on Saturday she and Pearson will see that injustice is finally corrected with an autopsy amazing new statue of Aningcollected and funded by a campaign they started as a direct result of Evie’s question.

Overcoming Covid’s planning and delays, they were twice forced to find a new site and raised more than £ 150,000 through their Mary Anning Rocks company, the couple describes the moment as particularly enjoyable.

“I knew it would happen one day, but obviously now that it’s finally here, I’m very happy and very proud of it,” Evie says. Enning, she thinks, “would be very happy that she finally got the recognition she deserves.”

Ening was born in 1799 into a family that literally knocked their lives off the coast around the new resort of Lime Regis, digging up fossils from dangerously crumbling rocks and selling them to collectors and museums. In addition to the ichthyosaur, her findings include the first complete plesiosaur skeleton and the first pterosaur found in Britain.

But she was much more than a bone hunter, says anthropologist and TV presenter Alice Roberts, who has supported the statue campaign from the beginning.

“She wasn’t just a fossil collector, and that’s very important. She understood what she was looking for, engaged in the science of the time, though obviously [as a working-class woman] she could not be a member of any of the scientific societies of the time. “

Although Anning certainly did not give full recognition to her experience, Roberts notes, “it’s not as if she wasn’t well known at the time. Despite the fact that in the 19th century and earlier, there were absolutely fewer women who were engaged in science and wrote about science than men, there were still many of them – and we forgot a lot. “

Design for the statue of Mary Anning. Photo: Mary Anning Statue Company / PA

She feels that this tide is starting to change, and for Mary Anning it is definitely true. In the last few years Ening has been added to the initial program, and the London Museum of Natural History, where many of her finds are now housed, has been named after her set of rooms. In 2020, the film “Amanit” about her life starring Kate Winslet and Sirsha Ronan was released.

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“Children are growing up now knowing who she is; it’s just part of their educational DNA, so it’s ingenious, ”Pearson says. “She’s in really safe hands with the next generation.”

And it’s not just Enning. “What’s really nice about the company is that it has shown us that there is a great love for historically forgotten women,” Pearson says. Others have been inspired by the company to install their own statues, at least eight other projects are currently being implemented under an umbrella group called VISIBLEwomenUK. “It’s the end result of what happens when you put a load of women in a room together. We’re doing shit! ”

For Roberts, who will unveil the statue accompanied by her own 12-year-old daughter: “It is very important for our girls to see these people and hear these stories. It is important for our guys to hear these stories and understand that, you know, the history of science is not exclusively male. “

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