The Raising Horizons exhibition aims to bring to life women from the past at the same time as highlighting contemporary ‘trowel-blazers’.
The project aims to show that women pioneers have always been part of the sciences, despite the popular image of sciences being the domain of bearded (and often white) men (especially geosciences).
Working with TrowelBlazers, famous and little-known women are paired with a range of diverse individuals working today in different sectors and at varied career levels.
Photographer Leonora Saunders’ images represent a moment in time from the lives of each historic individual.
The portraits reinforce the power of imagery to inspire girls to ‘See It, Be It’.
Promoting relatable role models is fundamental to TrowelBlazers’ work, and part of Leonora’s long-term commitment to raising issues around gender and equality through art.
Ranging from the mid-Victorian period through to the 1960s, each historic woman is posed by her modern counterpart.
The portrait of Mary Anning, the ‘world’s greatest fossil hunter’, was released in late November. It is based on a contemporary sketch of her working in rough skirts, a top hat and carrying a hammer, unlike the better-known painting from just before her death showing her in her ‘best’ clothes.
The new portrait also has a canine guest star, standing in for her beloved dog Tray who was killed in a landslide in 1833 while she was fossil collecting.
Her modern counterpart is Dr Lorna Steel, specialist in pterosaurs (one of the winged Jurassic reptiles first found by Mary Anning) and curator at the Natural History Museum, where they have a specimen found by Anning.
Two other portraits released are 19th century geologist, Lady Charlotte Murchison (posed by Dr Natasha Stephen, planetary geologist, Plymouth University), and the palaeontologist Mary Leakey (posed by palaeontology PhD student Ella al Shamahi, of UCL).
You can also watch a short video about the project.
Raising Horizons is currently running a crowdfunding campaign to support the project costs and a 2017 tour round the UK, with scientists, museums, and members of the public from around the world helping to raise money.
* TrowelBlazers’ fossil hunter Lottie doll was shortlisted in the 2017 toy of the year awards for ‘Action figure of the year’.
TrowelBlazers worked with ARKLU Toys to ensure that fossil hunter Lottie, released in 2015, represented a real field scientist and would inspire her owners to get out and discover more about palaeontology.
More than 20,000 have since sold, showing the keen appetite among youngsters for science role model toys.
Lottie is up for auction on ebay
For more information contact:
T: Rebecca Wragg Sykes 0033 602636524 or
Founded in 2013 by four academics in the geosciences, TrowelBlazers’ mission is to reset imaginations by highlighting women past and present in archaeology, geology and palaeontology; and uncovering the networks that link them.
It combines academic study of women in science in the past with a proactive approach to inspiring future women scientists through public events, collaborations, and an active community of online participants.
More than 30 mini-biographies – many crowdsourced – are hosted on their website.
TrowelBlazers is run collectively by three archaeologists and a palaeobiologist: Brenna Hassett, Suzanne Pilaar Birch, Rebecca Wragg Sykes and Victoria Herridge.
Recent personal projects include Victoria’s television programmes ‘Walking Through Time’ and ‘Britain at Low Tide’ (Channel 4), and Brenna’s forthcoming book ‘Built on Bones: 15,000 Years of Urban Life and Death’ (Bloomsbury Sigma).
About Leonora Saunders
Leonora Saunders has directed multiple commissioned projects related to cultural ideas on gender, ability and equality, including highlighting the role of women in careers traditionally dominated by men.
Her work has featured in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and The Evening Standard as well as The Royal Photographic Society Magazine and other photographic journals.
Raising Horizons sponsors
Prospect is a major project supporter, and the UK’s trade union for scientists and other specialists in areas as diverse as agriculture, education, environment and heritage.
Raising Horizons is also supported by Museum of London Archaeology, Historic England, Geologists’ Association, Society of Antiquaries, Geological Society, Palaeontological Association, Prehistoric Society, Past Horizons, Arklu, Chalke Valley History Trust and Harris Academy Bermondsey.