Celebrating the Incredible Women we've Named our Wicker Dinosaur Bags After

Celebrating the Incredible Women we've Named our Wicker Dinosaur Bags After

If we’re not using playful puns, we love to take inspiration from real live people and animals when it comes to our wicker bags. Did you know Chile was a flamingo at Adelaide zoo, or that Orangey cat was Audrey Hepburn's orange tabby cat in Breakfast at Tiffany's? Even our gorgeous Armel was named after one of my beloved friends IRL.

Following suit, each and every one of our wicker dinosaur bags was named after a truly remarkable woman. 

Yes, real women who made (or are still making) their mark on history. And we want to celebrate these ladies in more than just name, by telling you a bit about their incredible life stories. 

Meet the inspiration behind our wicker dinosaur bags

From ground-breaking palaeontologists to globally-renowned authors, here are the kick-ass women we named our dinosaur accessories after. 

Mary Anning

Image Source: Wikipedia

Our first dinosaur bag in the Wicker Darling dinosaur purse collection was Mary the Triceratops. She is a stately, aqua-ish dino named after a particularly impressive palaeontologist, Mary Anning. 

In 1799, Mary was born in the town of Lyme Regis, a southern swath of English coastline now endearingly known as “the Jurassic Coast.” That’s because 200 million years ago, the region was completely underwater - and is now home to oodles of fossils from incredible underwater creatures.

Mary was one of nine children, but she and her brother Joseph were the only ones who survived into adulthood. This wasn’t without some luck, however. When Mary was just 15 months old, a woman holding her was struck by lightning and died on the spot. And when she was 11 years old, her father suddenly died from tuberculosis, leaving the family with significant debts.

But before he passed, he had plenty of time to show Mary how to find fossils on the beach, passing on his love of fossil hunting. 

Mary’s mother encouraged her to keep finding fossils on the seashore to sell for money. And she obliged. 

In fact, she even inspired the tongue twister “she sells sea shells on the seashore!” 

Because she was out earning money for her family, Mary didn’t have time to attend school. Instead, she taught herself to read, write, and draw, learning all about anatomy to understand more about her fossilised discoveries. 

She became an unlikely scientific success at the ripe age of 12, when she made one of her biggest discoveries. Our young palaeontologist unearthed a complete skeleton of an Ichthyosaur - the first to ever be found. 

But this wasn’t the last of her incredible finds. 

Over the years, Mary went on to find the first Plesiosaurus and the first Pterodactyl in history. 

Even though she was making massive contributions to science, Mary Anning was not admitted to The Geological Society. At that point in time, women simply weren’t allowed. But when she died of breast cancer at the age of 47, the society recorded her death, signifying how important she was to them. 

Anning’s Ichthyosaur is still on display at the Natural History Museum in London. She has also had a fossilised coral named in her honour: the Tricycloseris anningi. And now, of course, she has a lovely wicker dinosaur bag named after her. 

I think she would be mighty chuffed about that.

Though her namesake was our dinosaur debut, Mary certainly isn’t the only female palaeontologist to inspire us. So now it’s time for you to meet Patricia. 

Patricia Vickers-Rich

When Mary the dinosaur bag was such a hit, we decided to re-release the triceratops dinosaur bag silhouette in a new colour way. This time, lilac. This light purple triceratops purse needed a new name, so we went digging for more palaeontologists.

That’s when we found Patricia Vickers-Rich. And thank goodness we did! 

Not only is Patricia the perfect name for our purple dinosaur bag, she also happens to be an incredible woman. 

You see, Patricia Vickers-Rich is an Australian Professor of Palaeontology and Palaeobiology. Her research has become instrumental in our understanding of how environmental changes have shaped the evolution of Australian flora and fauna. 

Patricia was born in the U.S. on 11 July, 1944. Growing up on a farm, she felt more in touch with field work than the pursuits of things other girls her age found fashionable. She was fascinated by the natural world, and took to studying natural history and biodiversity. 

These passions guided her to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in Palaeontology at the University of Berkeley and a Master of Arts in Geology and Doctorate of Philosophy at Columbia University. She then moved to Melbourne in 1976 to take up a position as Lecturer in Earth Sciences at Monash University. 

During her tenure, Patricia has held numerous impressive positions from Director and Founder of the Monash Science Centre, to Professor of Palaeobiology at Swinburne University of Technology, and President of the Australian Association of Palaeontologists.

Patricia Vickers-Rich has also been leading a major effort to locate fossils in Victoria, Australia since the 1970s. She has made some incredible discoveries that have informed us about the history of our country since it was part of the supercontinent Gondwana

She also found two new genera of dinosaurs, Leaellynasaura and Timimus, which she named after her children Leaellyn and Tim. 

Patricia says that one of her most memorable finds was a platypus tooth in the 1970s. You see, platypuses today don’t have any teeth, but this discovery proved that at one time they did!

Last but not least, our second inspiring palaeontologist is also a prolific writer. She has penned over 150 articles and at least 16 books, including “Wildlife of Gondwana: Dinosaurs and Other Vertebrates from the Ancient Supercontinent,” and “Magnificent Mihirungs: The Colossal Flightless Birds of the Australian Dreamtime.”

Now, Patricia is focusing her time in Saudi Arabia and South Africa, tracking down the origin of all animals on Earth. (And I can’t wait to see what she finds!) 

This incredible woman has taught us so much about our beloved Australia, and I found it fitting to honour her with her very own Australian dinosaur bag.

Joan Wiffen

Image Source: Michael Schneider

You know me, I always love a cheeky surprise - so here is today’s name drop.

Joan Wiffen. 

Despite a lack of formal education, and no access to specialised equipment, Joan Wiffen, a self-taught palaeontologist, discovered the very first evidence that dinosaurs lived in New Zealand. 

Joan was born on 4 February 1922 in Mount Eden, Auckland, and adopted the following year. As mentioned, she had very little by way of education because her father believed higher education was wasted on girls. 

Forced to leave and set out on her own, Joan joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force during World War II where she served for six years. At the end of her service, she went to work in a radio shop where she met and married a radio technician named Montague “Pont” Wiffen. 

Pont and Joan developed an interest in collecting and polishing stones after he attended a geology night class. It was through this shared love of geology that Joan became fascinated with fossils. She had always loved fossilised shells in the Hawke’s Bay hillsides of her childhood, and was now curious to know what else waited beneath the surface of the soil.

With a little convincing, Joan got Pont to focus on fossils instead of gemstones. Soon, the couple was visiting many fossil sites around New Zealand. On 2 December 1972, the Wiffens made their first visit to Mangahouanga Stream.

In her book, “Valley of the Dragons,” Joan excitedly recalls, “Every one of the cold grey stones in the water seemed to sprout fossils…there were rocks encrusted with fish teeth, shark teeth, fish scales and vertebrae, gleaming on the surface.”  

Just a few months later, Joan discovered her first dinosaur bone. Unfortunately, there was no one in the country who could advise her on the identification. She was assured by everyone that dinosaurs simply didn’t exist in New Zealand. 

Fortunately for us, she was convinced they were wrong. 

Over the years Joan went on to find many more incredible fossils, from mosasaurs to plesiosaurs. But that first fossil still haunted her. Joan poured through book after book on palaeontology to try and make sense of her discovery.

Finally, in 1979, Joan met with US fossil expert Ralph Molnar. Molnar was able to confirm that her first discovery was indeed the remains of a theropod dinosaur. This proved without a doubt that dinosaurs had once walked the New Zealand landmass. 

She went on to find six other dinosaur species at Mangahouanga - four of which were unique to New Zealand. Her important work garnered much-deserved recognition and many awards, such as the Morris Skinner Award from the Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology for her outstanding and sustained contributions to scientific knowledge of fossil vertebrates.

Her work also earned her the nickname “dinosaur lady.” (Though she said she really preferred “dinosaur woman.”)

But who is Joan the Dinosaur Woman to the Wicker Darling family, you ask? 

Why, she’s a very lovely pink triceratops purse

That’s right, I simply couldn’t resist adding another pink purse to our wicker collection, and since there wasn’t a single pink dinosaur bag in sight, it was a done dino deal! With Joan Wiffen’s incredible chutzpah, it only seems right that she’s earned the (rather enviable) honour of a wicker dinosaur bag in her name. 

That’s not all.

Our dinosaur accessory family doesn’t stop there. But not all of our lovable prehistoric creatures are named after palaeontologists; Some are named after writers. One could argue the greatest writing family of all time. 

The Brontë sisters 

Image Source: Wikipedia

Two of the Brontë sisters, Charlotte and Emily Brontë, are the inspiration behind our beautiful brontosaurus purses at Wicker Darling. These giants of the literary world were all too easy to transform into giants of the prehistoric one. (Tell me “Brontë” doesn’t SCREAM to evolve into “Bronte-saurus.”) 

And so, two of our most beloved dinosaur bags were so named. 

May we present our green dinosaur purse, Charlotte Bronte-saurus, and our cute purple dinosaur bag, Emily Bronte-saurus? (The jury is still out on whether or not little miss Anne Brontë will be joining her sisters in the wicker mix.)

Charlotte Brontë was born in Thornton on 21 April 1816, and two years later, on 30 July 1818, her little sister Emily joined her in the secluded house on the Yorkshire moors. Then came Anne Brontë and brother Branwell. What would have been a large family was cut down in size by the death of their mother and their two elder sisters when the children were quite young. 

Growing up with no mother and a busy father, the Brontë sisters spent their time creating elaborate fantasy worlds and voraciously reading whatever books they could find. They let their imaginations run wild on the moors - dreaming up political intrigues, putting on plays, and writing miniature novels and poems in secret. 

All the Brontë sisters were shy, but Emily most of all. She would hide whenever visitors came calling, and even in adulthood would often remain silent when addressed. 

Charlotte, on the other hand, was a bit more bold and bossy. 

At age 16, Charlotte Brontë sent some of her work to poet Robert Southey for review. He told her to give up writing, as literature could not be the business of a woman's life (SCOFF). Rather than being deterred, this egged her on. 

Because they lacked financial security as a family, the girls needed to find a profession. At the time, the traditional options were to become a teacher or a governess. 

The problem? Charlotte absolutely hated teaching. Her first position lasted three years. In her “Roe Head Journal” of this time, she called the work “wretched bondage” and the students “fat-headed oafs.” 

Ooof.

Next, Charlotte attempted governessing, but she equally hated being reduced to a glorified nanny.

Emily was not altogether different. She was never very fond of people, and told her students she preferred the school dog to them. But she was QUITE good at housekeeping. Emily was known as a domestic goddess, renowned as the best bread baker in town. 

By 1845, all the sisters had moved back home to take care of their father after the death of their aunt Elizabeth. While they originally planned to open their own school, it never got off the ground - instead, they found success through writing. In the autumn of 1845, Charlotte came across some poems Emily had written. Finding them fabulous, she convinced her sisters to publish a joint book of poetry. They did so under the pseudonyms Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) to avoid any scrutiny for being women. 

This paved the way for them to begin work on their novels. 

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne all planned to publish their first novels in tandem. Unfortunately, though Anne’s “Agnes Grey” and Emily’s “Wuthering Heights” performed well, no one would touch Charlotte’s novel, “The Professor.” 

This was more than made up for by Charlotte’s sophomore novel, where she poured all her outage at the degraded status of teachers and governesses. This novel, “Jane Eyre,” went on to achieve the most acclaim of any of the Brontë novels. 

In 1848, the Brontë sisters admitted to their pseudonyms, and were greatly celebrated by London literary critics. The sisters could not appreciate this success for long, though. Emily and Anne were dead within years; victims to tuberculosis. 

Left alone with her father, Charlotte continued to write. She declined numerous marriage proposals, having entered into a “spinster-pact” with her best friend Ellen Nussey. As a solo woman, she went on to publish two more novels: “Shirley” and “Villette.” 

Eventually, she broke her pact and married her father’s curate, Arthur Nicholls in 1854. This was her undoing. 

One year later, Charlotte Brontë died from pregnancy complications.

While their time was brief, the Brontë sisters paved the way for female writers the world over, pointing a finger at the double-standards women suffered in the Victorian era. 

I am very proud to have wicker brontosaurus purses named after these pioneering women. And I hope that ANY person who finds themselves the owner of our lovely dino designs gets a little extra dose of confidence whenever one is on their arm.

Check out our ever-growing dinosaur family 

Listen up, chickadees. There are more dinosaurs on the horizon! 

In fact, one could come plodding out of our atelier any day now. We’ve already expanded our dinosaur accessories to include not just dinosaur bags, but dinosaur coin purses, and we have more saurus-surprises on the way.

Pop on over to peruse our current dinosaur purse collection, and prepare yourself for an arrival of Cretaceous proportions any day now. 

December 08, 2021 — Averi Melcher