At school, I’m sure I was at Mary Anning House. As the only band inspired by a famous woman from elementary school in my small town, it was pretty cool back then. We’ve heard endless stories about Anning and how she was a talented paleontologist, working from her small storefront next to the rugged shore of the Jurassic Coast and selling seashells and ammonites to tourists. She should have lived in London, they said; his pieces were in the Natural History Museum. She should have joined a geological or geographic society, but they were not open to female members.
Selfish as she is, a part of me is happy that she was not absorbed into the London intellectual scene. In this way, she belongs to my part of the world, Dorset and the rocky shores of its coastline, where I too would spend hours digging in rocks and freezing my toes in the turbulent waves of the gray Lyme Sea. Regis. She absolutely deserves the recognition she never got, and that her fossils be properly labeled with her name, but there is no doubt that she loved Dorset, and she gave me a reason to love her too .
When I heard that Francis Lee was making a film about Anning’s life, it seemed important and timely to me. But, I didn’t understand the impact the Ammonite was about to have on me when I sat down to watch him on a frosty evening in Dorset after a salty walk on the beach.
I had seen the interviews and knew that Lee had portrayed Anning as “controversially” in a lesbian relationship, although there was no evidence of such a relationship. But there’s no proof that she was straight either, and there are some pretty indicative love letters between her and her close friends. Historians might say they were roommates: but were they really?
Regardless of Anning’s sexuality, watching a pair of women fall beautifully, painfully in love on the same shores that I had dug and buried my feet with my hair sticky with sea salt had an impact on me that I didn’t. still not fully understand.
Watching Anning and her lover Charlotte frolic in the sea and share candlelit bread with muddy fingers and windswept cheeks, I couldn’t think of anything else for days. I had been in that display case, I had paid £ 5 to hire a small hammer and a bucket to dig like Anning for fossils, only finding ammonites. I squinted at the sign that briefly described Anning’s life and work.