The historical problems of travel for women undertaking geological fieldwork
Published:January 01, 2007
C. V. Burek, M. Kölbl-Ebert, 2007. "The historical problems of travel for women undertaking geological fieldwork", The Role of Women in the History of Geology, C. V. Burek, B. Higgs
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From unsuitable clothes to lack of chaperones, from sexual harassment to lack of proper funding, throughout history women geologists have encountered difficulties travelling to their field locations or working in the field, whether these locations were close by or abroad. From Etheldred Benett to the present day, problems were often sociological and political as well as logistical. Most early women geologists were able to avoid many difficulties because they were protected through working locally, where their high social standing was known and respected, or because they worked in a team with husband, father or brother. However, the problem developed virulence in the second half of the 19th century, when women started to appear as students and professionally trained geologists. The single travelling woman geologist had to face discriminating attitudes, ranging from pity to disregard and even to sexual harassment. Benevolent society also had its problems with these women, when, for example, professors needed their wives as chaperones to take women students on field trips.
While women geologists out in the field certainly had and have to face problems because of their gender, those problems have also been used as an argument against employment of female geologists out of paternalistic concern, i.e. a discriminating strategy which is possibly the most difficult to reject.
This paper explores the difficulties of women geologists undertaking fieldwork from the late 18th to the mid-20th century by looking at specific examples and deducing the social and logistic reasons behind these problems.
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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.