March 8th – International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day is a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women past and present. In some countries this day is marked by a national holiday.
This is the one-hundredth anniversary of International Women’s Day, the first official commemorations took place in some European countries (Denmark, Austria, Germany and Switzerland) in 1911, a time of great social change when the rights and roles of women in Europe and the United States were becoming more prominent in the political debates of the age.
There have been many great female scientists, within the field palaeontology the role of the likes of Mary Anning is now widely recognised, however when Mary was alive her contribution to the nascent science of palaeontology was played down by her male peers. Indeed, many of the thoughts, descriptions and explanations that Mary proposed relating to the fossil discoveries on the Dorset coast (southern England) were accredited to other (male) scientists rather than to Mary herself.
As a working class woman, she was shunned by the academics and scientists of her day. For example, she was not permitted to join the Geological Society of London. She spent most of her life in financial difficulties and it was only in her final years that she was awarded a pension by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, in recognition of her pioneering work.
In 2010, the Royal Society published a list of the ten women who had most influenced science in the United Kingdom – Mary Anning was one of them.
We have visited Lyme Regis on numerous occasions and when there we often take time out to visit St. Michael’s church and to spend a few moments of reflection besides Mary and her brother Joseph’s grave. Her contribution may have been overlooked during her lifetime, but we at Everything Dinosaur, continue to use the inspirational story of Mary and other female scientists working in the Earth sciences to help motivate and encourage girls to take more of an interest in these sciences.
The Grave of Mary Anning at Lyme Regis
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur