It’s nearly the end of the year, so it’s time for a TrowelBlazers recap of 2014- and it’s been quite a year for us!

Our biggest achievement – and challenge – was launching our new website (, rather than our original tumblr), which we managed with huge amounts of design ideas and help from our Tech Guru and Science Demonstrator, Neil Monteiro. We LOVE our shiny new home, with its gorgeous looks (the homepage circle photos of trowelblazers reload each time- totally addictive!), and new features such as the Blog and the Community page. It got tons of brilliant feedback, almost 40K hits so far, and has enabled us to make our articles a bit more substantial with slightly longer text, and multiple images.

Trowel Challenge! Can you name the women featured?

Trowel Challenge! Can you name the women featured?

And in terms of content for the website, we have had 26 new trowelblazer posts this year, with 18 of them being submitted by contributors and then edited by us. We are really proud of the genuine crowd-sourced content that we have, and for those who write more than two posts, the honourable Order of the Blazing Trowel is awarded, and celebrated on the Community page. This year Jan Freedman, Roberto Rozzi, Amara Thornton, Lisa-Marie Shillito and Meg Rosenburg were admitted to its illustrious ranks.

Our most popular new posts of 2014 were

While not new articles, Yusra and Margaret Murray was also popular again this year.

Lehmann in 1932. Image courtesy The Royal Library, National Libary of Denmark and University of Copenhagen University Library, under a Creative Commons License.

Inga Lehmann in 1932. Image courtesy The Royal Library, National Libary of Denmark and University of Copenhagen University Library, under a Creative Commons License.

In terms of how people engage with TrowelBlazers, we have had more than 12,000 unique visitors to the website since our May 2014 launch, and about 30% of people come back for more (we can understand why!). Interestingly, over half our audience is male, and also half are under 35. But while we have had people from 122 countries checking us out, 70% of readers are from the US and UK – something we want to develop in future is our accessibility to non-anglophone users, so multi-lingual posts would be very welcome!

Across on Facebook, many more people seemed to find us this year, and one of the most shared posts was a superb grass-roots trowelblazing phenomenon,  the wonderful #WomenDigging response from social media to bizarre and clearly untrue comments from the Turkish president.

Speaking of Other Awesome Things, we had a very busy year in the offline world, with many different trowelblazery activities. Three of us managed to actually meet up in the same location when Becky was over in London- Mary Anning played host to our gathering at the Natural History Museum. Later on this year Tori met with Suzie during her Flying Dash to New York For Science (see below).

NHM meetup featured image 2

Becky with Brenna and Tori (the latter meeting IRL for the first time ever!) under the gaze of Mary Anning, Natural History Museum, London

Tori and Suzie meet up in New York

Tori and Suzie meet up in New York

We spoke about TrowelBlazers at three academic conferences (in Istanbul, Paris and Florence!), and co-convened a panel at the Royal Society Revealing Lives conference(with Feminist Voices, an organisation doing similar things to us for women in Psychology).  We also went to the Feminism in London Conference (where we saw those AMAZING Sally Binford “I’m not here to cook; I’m here to dig” patches). Next year we have more talks happening, including our first Stateside appearance in San Francisco at the Society for American Archaeology, where at least three of us and possibly all four will be present- who knows what will happen!

This year we ran our first competition to celebrate our guest post on the Nobel winner Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin; written by Georgina Ferry, the prize was the biography on Dorothy C-H that she authored. The winner was Freddie Foulds, who did ‘Dot 2 Dot’ by making the fewest links between Dorothy C-H and Dorothy Garrod.

For International Archives Day, we celebrated with a post thanking all the institutions, organisations and individuals who have supported us with access to information, and especially amazing photographs, of the women we write about. Without the dedication to preserving information about the lives of trowelblazers, and generosity in helping us to share them, TrowelBlazers itself wouldn’t be possible.

During 2014 we did something a bit left-field but still trowelblazer-related that was super fun- we were approached by the makers of Lottie Dolls to consult on their Fossil Hunter Lottie. Happy to help with accuracy, on a voluntary basis we advised on her palaeontological kit, the fossils she has, her field clothing, packaging and also wrote the insert cards and extra online content about palaeontology, Mary Anning and other famous trowelblazers. The doll will be launched in 2015 (hopefully involving us at a fossily event!), and we are very happy to have helped with a child-positive product aimed at getting girls and boys interested in fun (and responsible!) fossil collecting – something that was the beginning of lifelong passions for many of the trowelblazers we write about.


Fossil Hunter Lottie

Lastly, we have to mention a few other bits that we got up to from 2014- Suzie got a very impressive new lectureship at University of Georgia, including her own lab. Brenna has been filling the Cosmic Genome project with delicious dental science tidbits, featured on the BBC Science year in review no less! Becky’s postdoc grew in scope with the discovery of a new Palaeolithic site (and family life grew too thanks to the arrival of the Littlest TrowelBlazer). And Tori had an insane fortnight when the world went mammoth mad, and everyone (Grazia! The BBC! CBS!) wanted a piece of her following the airing of Mammoth Autopsy.

Tori in the midst of Mammoth Madness, on TV in the States

Tori in the midst of Mammoth Madness, on TV in the States; sadly no time for a TB shoutout!

2014 has really been a rollercoaster, and we want to thank all contributors, and our readers, followers and fans across a rather huge slice of social media for your support. We have some brilliant stuff coming in the next year too, including the fabulously exciting award we have won (with Alison Cullingford at U. Bradford Special Collections) from the British Science Association Community Grant to put on a event called “Woman In Time – Exploring Our Humanity Through Poetry and Science“, about Yusra, Jacquetta Hawkes and Tabun 1 in Bradford in March 2015. Stay tuned for more on this…

We’ve had so many amazing things happen none of us imagined a year ago, and we can’t wait to discover what new surprises the Incredible TrowelBlazers Juggernaut will throw up in 2015! Keep on ‘blazing!

Becky, Tori, Suzie and Brenna

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