7. The Unknown Woman of the Seine (5/8)


In the late 19th century, people recovered an unknown woman’s body from the River Seine in France. They displayed her at the Paris mortuary with the hopes of someone recognizing and identifying her, according to the BBC. And although nobody knew her, she did catch the eye of a mortuary worker who made a plaster mask of her face. The mask, which some refer to as the “drowned Mona Lisa” or “L’Inconnue” became a cultural phenomenon that would inspire artists, poets, and novelists, as well as one particular toy maker. Still doesn’t sound familiar? Here’s how you recognize her: a Norwegian toy manufacturer specializing in soft plastic created the first CPR mannequin—using the unknown woman’s face. The toy maker drew inspiration from the L’Inconnue mask hanging in his parents’ home. His creation became the standard CPR dolls or “Rescue Annies,” per the BBC. Many people who know CPR don’t realize the face of the safety doll belongs to a woman who drowned years before the existence of those techniques.

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