Girls ROCK! No, really, they do…

June 3, 2008

Dr. Bakker urged me weeks ago to check out a super cool chick named Mary Anning who was really smart and knew a lot about fossils.  “She would be a great role model for girls,” he said.  Okay, okay, I’ll get around to it was the answer, thinking all the time that it sounded kind of boring.  I could not have been more wrong, what a great gal.  The Spice Girls could have taken a lesson or two from Mary on Girl Power.

Or…at least they can be top-notch world-class fossil hunters.

alien autopsy
Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

In a time where women were not taken seriously at all (she lived in the 19th century after all), let alone in science, Mary made a name for herself as a top-shelf fossil hunter and amateur geologist.  As if being a woman wasn’t bad enough, she was also quite poor and collected and sold fossils to help support her family.

Mary slogged around day after day under unstable cliffs at low tide searching for fossils that washed out of the cliff walls.  She was almost crushed several times by falling boulders, which ended up killing her dog.  What a commitment it must have taken to persevere. 

When Mary was only 12 years old she carried out the excavation of the world’s first ichthyosaur all by herself.  What an accomplishment.  I think she’s my new favorite science girl.  Girls (and boys), I want to hear who your favorite science girl is.  Let’s get your comments.

Authored By Kat Havens

Kat has been both the spokesperson for the CSI: The Experience exhibit and project manager for the Imperial Rome exhibit and has a love of all things historical and cultural. She is responsible for the Xplorations summer camp program, coordinating weekday labs during the school year, writing department curriculum and presenting at teacher trainings. Kat has worked at the Museum since 1996.

3 responses to “Girls ROCK! No, really, they do…”

  1. Jessica says:

    Mary Leakey is definitely my favorite science girl!! Great anthropologist/archaeologist!

  2. Steven says:

    I think I am going to have to go with Agnodice. According to ancient sources, she was the first midwife/physician mentioned in history in Ancient Greece. She supposedly dates back to 3rd or 4th century BC. She challenged the law that women couldn’t practice medicine.

  3. Inda says:

    Well, Kat, you zeroed in on my favorite (not too surprising to hear from a geologist, is it?). Mary Anning was pretty amazing. While I’m not sure she was entirely responsible for the discovery and excavation of that first ichthyosaur (she worked with her brother), she did find lots more later and is generally credited with understanding what they were. It’s more than enough! As you say, she was only 10 or 12 years old. Pleisiosaurs, pterosaurs, fish. Even during her short lifetime, her reputation became pretty sound. In her 30s, when she was sick, one of the geological societies voted money for a sort of pension, and her obituary was published by organizations she wasn’t allowed to join.

    Here is a picture that is likely from the Natural History Museum (in London) of Mary with her rock hammer and collecting bag.

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