International Women’s Day: Mary Anning

“Do you know Mary Anning,

Born on the southern shore,

her father, Richard, was a cabinet maker.

Richard died so early,

leaving the Annings poor.

Luckily, Mary discovered

an ichthyosaur.” — “Mary Anning” by Artichoke

My first exposure to Mary Anning was through a rock song. While the tune is catchy and one of my favourites, I realized that I knew very little about the woman in the song.

Mary Anning was an English fossil collector, dealer and paleontologist who discovered Jurassic marine fossil beds in the cliffs near her home in southwest England.

It was during walks with her dog, Tray, along the cliffs in the winter months that the shapes of prehistoric life would appear as landslides exposed new fossils. Some of her discoveries include the first ichthyosaur, two complete plesiosaur skeletons and the first pterosaur outside of Germany. (Resource: Wikipedia)

I like to envision this woman walking on the beach and seeing the shapes of extinct animals coming to life in the sand and on the cliff. It may be romanticizing on my part, but I think each of us has a gift and that she was able to tap into hers during a time when women were not part in the scientific community.

While she was well-known in scientific circles, as a woman, she was not eligible to join the Geological Society of London and often was not given credit for her discoveries or findings.

The story of Mary Anning resignates with me for gifts aren’t gender based. She had a unique talent, ability and understanding of a prehistoric world that was limited by the gender bias of the world she lived in. She could connect the shapes in the ground to tell a prehistoric story — but couldn’t connect with her peers because of her gender.

How can we invest so much time in our past — without changing our future?

Mary Anning had a gift, a talent. She had something to offer the world that no one else had — a unique perspective of the world in front of her. I believe we all have a gift, talent, a way of seeing the world. It is up to us to share it — despite the circumstances of our current situation.

She inspires me to look below the sand to the shapes underneath. To be curious. To continue to dig deeper, even when others scoff or mock. To keep going.

On International Women’s Day, #myfeminism is where a person is appreciated for who they are and we don’t limit their potential, worth based upon their gender.

“Science was the province of men of noble birth,

But I’ll take Mary Anning over those stuff white shirts.”

Resources:

* “Mary Anning” by Artichoke

* Mary Anning on Wikipedia

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