You're not on your own, lots of people know very little about her. Shocking when you consider the impact her discoveries made to the way we view the world today. And even more unbelievable when it was Mary Anning that kick started our obsession with Dinomania. It's safe to say that if you are a lover of dinosaurs and all things pre-historic, then you should also love the woman who started it all over 200 years ago!
A portrait of Mary Anning probably by William Gray, February 1842, a few months before her 43rd birthday.
Not only was she an early pioneer of palaeontology and a self taught scientist with a huge capacity to understand the fossilised remains she discovered in the Blue Lias cliffs of Lyme Regis, but she was also from a poor working-class background and struggled for most of her life with poverty. Yet without a formal education, her discoveries and ideas about the first ever fossilised creatures to be discovered became the catalyst that changed the way we think about the origins of our planet and how life evolved on it.
Our ‘Anning Army'
Yet even now a hundred and seventy one years after her death, books still fail to list her as one of the greatest Palaeontologists of our time. Her name has been eradicated from history and her achievements unacknowledged and unknown because Anning was an uneducated, working-class woman and, subsequently, an outsider to polite society and the scientific community.
She was refused membership to the influential Geological Society, she wasn't even allowed to attend meetings or lectures as a guest and was never allowed to publish her work. It was always the male geologists who published the scientific descriptions of the specimens she found, frequently neglecting to even make reference to her name.
Evie and a large ammonite found on the same beaches where Mary found hers
In 2010, a hundred and sixty three years after her death, she was finally recognised by the Royal Society as one of the most influential women scientists in British history.
Lots of people have talked about a permanent monument for Mary in Lyme Regis, but nothing ever seemed to get off the ground. The spark of inspiration finally came in the form of an 11-year old, fossil mad, local girl, Evie Swire when she asked her mother, ‘Why isn’t there a statue to Mary, mummy?’ A few phone calls, emails, and several meetings later, and Mary Anning Rocks was born.
Evie doing her BBC News report for Newsround
We want to acknowledge and remember Mary in a visual way because we want to give her a tangible work of art that will not only give her back a physical presence in her Lyme Regis but will equally give the people of Lyme and the thousands of tourists that come to visit every year a focal point of remembrance and respect. We see the statue as an inspirational presence in the landscape where she worked, to inspire and show people, young and old, locals and visitors alike, that great things can be achieved from almost impossible circumstances.
More of our 'Anning Army' from around the world
We are extremely lucky to have the patronage and backing of not only some of the great and good from the world of science and Palaeontology, but we also have support from all sorts of different creative and amazing people who love this campaign for a multitude of reasons. They include Sir David Attenborough, Professor Alice Roberts, Professor Hugh Torrens Dr Anjana Khatwa, TrowelBlazers, The Geologists’ Association, Dr Dean Lomax and the novelist Tracy Chevalier, to name a few.
The trustees spent a great deal of time from the start of the campaign in 2018 researching and looking at existing projects and speaking with the organisations and artists that created them. All the artists we spoke with had produced critically renowned statues across the UK so we were extremely confident that we were engaging with artists of merit.
Our final decision was to commission the amazing artist Denise Dutton. Denise’s recent commissions have been the Annie Kenny statue in Bolton last year and the Land Girls monument unveiled by the Countess of Wessex at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire
We have also delivered a local schools art engagement programme with Lyme Regis based artist Darrell Wakelam. It is important that the children of Lyme, who will look after Mary’s statue and legacy after we are gone, have a say in how she will look. The winning artworks have been used as inspiration for Denise's final design.
We hope you like the final composition, showing a bold Mary striding out to the beach in her working clothes. Her beloved Tray by her side and carrying the tools of her trade, hammer, basket and bonnet.
Denise Dutton’s preliminary sketch of how the statue will look.
Become a part of this historic campaign to get Mary Anning her long overdue statue in Lyme Regis! Please claim a reward and donate what you can! Every penny given will make a real difference for Mary’s memory and legacy for future generations.
Then please check us out on our website HERE