Like most people, you've probably never heard of Mary Anning - that's not because of her achievements, but because she was poor, working class, and female. A young girl in Dorset has now decided it was high time that she was properly recognised with a statue in her home town, Lyme Regis.
Mary Anning was an early pioneer of palaeontology and a self-taught scientist who discovered numerous Jurassic marine fossils in the Blue Lias cliffs on England's south coast at Lyme Regis.
She was from a poor working-class background and struggled for most of her life with poverty yet, without a formal education, her ideas about the first ever Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs, which she discovered, were the catalyst that changed the way we think about how life evolved on our planet.
Even now, a hundred and seventy one years after her death, books still fail to list her as one of our greatest palaeontologists. Her achievements are unacknowledged and mostly unknown because Anning was an uneducated, working-class woman and, therefore, excluded from polite society and the (entirely male) scientific community.
She lived at a time (1799 -1847) when women were not allowed to vote, own their own property, or attend university. Although she made many significant finds along the Dorset coast, they were credited to the male collectors who bought her fossils.
Mary Anning is now to be commemorated by a statue thanks to a crowdfunding campaign established by a teenage girl who hails from the same town. Evie Swire, 13, of Lyme Regis, Dorset, was disappointed to learn that in spite of Anning’s contribution to palaeontology, there was no statue to celebrate her.
Keen to raise awareness about Anning, Swire launched a crowdfunder and raised £70,000 to commission a sculptor. A statue of Anning will now be erected in Lyme Regis on 21 May 2022, the 223rd anniversary of her birth.