Remarkable Creatures

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier is the story of Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot, both of whom lived during the first half of the 19th century, and their unusual friendship, based upon a common interest in fossils. Mary was a member of a poverty-stricken family who brought in money by using her gift of finding (and taking) fossils on the seashore. Elizabeth was of a more privileged class, but was dependent upon her brother, who inherited their father’s estate when he died. She and her younger sister found themselves living at the same seaside town as Mary, and Elizabeth struck up a relationship with Mary, which eventually developed into a real friendship. Society didn’t give much credence to Mary’s ability and her status as a woman discounted even more her getting credit for her fossil finds. Her friendship with Elizabeth opened doors for her, and she finally gained some recognition for dinosaur remains that she uncovered. The friendship ultimately suffered because of Elizabeth’s understanding of societal contraints, and Mary’s refusal to accept her advice. This is a compelling story that brought me to a greater understanding of the value of friendships between women (especially women of different ages), and the progress we’ve made on our own behalf.