Mary Anning Rocks
1918. Anya Pearson
1919. Evie Swire
Anya Pearson and Evie Swire, from Dorset, are a mother-daughter duo who successfully crowdfunded over £150,000 to erect a statue in Lyme Regis to pioneering 19th century scientist Mary Anning, celebrating her connection to Lyme Regis as well as women in STEM.
At just 12 years old, Mary Anning made a series of groundbreaking fossil discoveries along the Jurassic Coast in Dorset which significantly advanced scientific understanding of palaeontology, prehistoric life and geological history. As a poor working-class woman, however, she was ineligible to join the Geological Society of London, with many of her findings going uncredited in scientific publications and receiving no recognition of her contributions to science during her lifetime.
Her profile has since gained greater interest but Evie, a budding young scientist from Dorset with a love for fossils, realised there was no form of monument marking Mary Anning’s achievements. Deciding she wanted to create a campaign to erect one in the town of Lyme Regis where Mary was born, lived and died, Evie began a crowdfunding appeal with her mother Anya which quickly attracted huge support from across the UK and has been championed by leading figures from the world of science including Sir David Attenborough and Professor Alice Roberts. Set up in 2018 when Evie was aged 11, the ‘Mary Anning Rocks’ campaign has now succeeded in its mission, with the official unveiling of a statue to Mary Anning, designed by sculptor Denise Dutton, taking place on the 21st May. Anya and Evie, however, plan to continue using the campaign to raise money in Mary Anning’s name for a sustainable educational programme to encourage more girls into science, as well as highlighting the lack of statues in the UK celebrating the achievements of women.
In a personal letter to Anya and Evie, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“Your ‘Mary Anning Rocks’ campaign has showcased the achievements of an incredible woman, scientist, and Lyme Regis hero, and given her the monument she deserves in her home-town.
Just as you have hunted for fossils on the same beach where she made her discoveries, you are inspiring thousands of other girls around the country to follow in Mary Anning’s footsteps and making sure her legacy lives on.”
Anya and Evie said:
“We are both surprised and incredibly honoured to have received this award. It’s so important that we recognise grassroots campaigns like ours that champion forgotten Sheroes of history. Especially those who were not only marginalised because of gender but were also overlooked because of class. There are more statues of men called John in the UK than there are of all named women. So, who are we putting on pedestals, and what message does that tell our children? Who are they looking up to? This award is also important because it goes a long way in recognising the voices of the young. They are often ignored and, at worse, patronised. This award for Evie’s hard work in getting Mary Anning the long-overdue recognition she so truly deserves shows that the young have the power, the imagination and the passion for getting things done. Do you have a forgotten Sheroe of history in your town you’d like to see remembered? Join our spin-off campaign @VISABLEWomenUK, and we can show you how it’s done.”
Pictured above: Anya and Evie. Below: Evie fossil-hunting, and the finished statue of Mary Anning, ahead of its official unveiling (Photo credits: Mary Anning Rocks)