The role of women in the history and development of geology: an introduction
Published:January 01, 2007
A conference held at the London Geological Society, Burlington House, London, on 28 November 2005, hosting over 70 participants, was the first to deal solely with the role that women played in the history and development of the science of geology. Sixteen papers were read and there were two poster presentations. Prior to this, there have been individual articles written and papers published on the historical role of women in the history of the geosciences, but this collection of conference papers is, surprisingly, the first time a book has been published bringing the evidence together and giving an overview and a selection of detailed case histories.
In carrying out this project the authors ask: ‘Can we really analyse the situation for women in the geosciences today without knowing what happened in the past?’ Consequently, the collection of papers in this book mainly deals with the late 1700s to early 1900s, but also offers some links to the present day. It attempts to evaluate the contribution of women, and their changing roles, in the development of geology as a science. This undertaking has allowed a number of themes and common issues to emerge and be identified, which will be drawn out and discussed in this introduction. This work suggests that, in relation to our question, the past is the key to the present.
It is interesting to note that it is not only women who have researched these case histories; there are valuable contributions from respected male colleagues. The mix includes review papers referring not only to the development of geology in Great Britain, but also in other European countries, Australia, and North America. There are papers that look at a particular role, such as women as museum curators, or at a particular issue, such as travel for women during field studies. There are also several papers that focus on the contribution of a particular individual. The conference was publicized using the image of Etheldred Benett (1776–1845), and so an introduction to this early pioneer, originally submitted as a poster, is included in this book.
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The Role of Women in the History of Geology
Where were the women in Geology? This book is a first as it unravels the diverse roles women have played in the history and development of geology as a science predominantly in the UK, Ireland and Australia, and selectively in Germany, Russia and US. The volume covers the period from the late eighteenth century to the present day and shows how the roles that women have played changed with time. These included illustrators, museum collectors and curators, educationalists, researchers and geologists. Originally as wives, sisters or mothers many were assistants to their male relatives. This book looks at all these forgotten women and for the first time historians and scientists together explore the contribution they made to this male-dominated subject. There are individual profiles on remarkable women: Catherine Raisin, Dorothea Bate, Cuvier's daughters, Grace Prestwich, Annie Greenly, Nancy Kirk, Margaret Crosfield, Ethel Skeat, Maria Ogivlie Gordon, Marie Stopes, Anne Phillips, Muriel Arber and Etheldred Bennett. Pulling together this extensive research uncovered common issues and generated emergent themes. The Editors have brought this new research together under these themes and tried to answer the question Where were the women in Geology? They go on to discuss how these role models can be applicable to today's society.