A lot of the time when people talk about women in the sciences they’re like “oh, women? Yes, there was a woman. One woman. One woman in a man’s world. Doing science with men. Working with men. Having interpersonal conflict with men. Maybe occasionally seeing someone’s wife or sister at the end of a corridor.” Which is pretty myth of the exceptional individual and in the interests of not doing that, here are some of the many female fossil hunters Mary knew:
Anna Marie Pinney: gentleman’s daughter, moved to Lyme Regis in 1831, close friend of Mary’s despite about 15 years age difference. Her diary is where we get most of the known details about Mary Anning’s personal life. After their first fossil hunting trip she wrote the already mentioned quote about Mary’s outspokenness, which was almost unheard of in a 19th century woman. She also points out how Mary “laugh[ed] extremely at the young dandies”. Relatable.
Mrs. Stock : Wife of a landowner who sometimes hired a young Mary to run errands. Gave Mary the first geology book she ever owned at 14. According to Anna Marie, Mrs. Stock regarded Mary as “a spirited young person of independent character who did not much care for undue politeness and pretense.”
Elizabeth Philpot: One of a family of 5 wealthy sisters who moved to Lyme Regis while Mary lived there. About 20 years older than Mary, but went fossil hunting with her regularly. The Philpot home was so full of fossils people referred to it as a museum. When Mary discovered a belemnite fossil with dried ink inside Elizabeth mixed the powder with water and used it to paint prehistoric animals, which is so undergraduate statement art it’s unbelievable.
Charlotte Murchinson: Wife of famous geologist Roderick Murchinson. Visited Mary for a few weeks and kept up written correspondence for many years. Charlotte went on a geological expedition with her husband and Charles Lyell in 1828, where she was responsible for sketching all landscapes and translating to local guides, making her another unsung hero.
Mary was also friends with William Buckland. Here is a quote from Thomas Allen, who knew both and visited Mary in 1824: “her account of her disputes with Buckland, whose anatomical science she holds in contempt, was quite amusing”. Look at her, all grown up and throwing shade.