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The historical problems of travel for women undertaking geological fieldwork

C. V. Burek
C. V. Burek
Centre for Science Communication, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Chester, Parkgate Road Chester, CH1 4BJ, UK (e-mail:
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M. Kölbl-Ebert
M. Kölbl-Ebert
Jura-Museum Eichstätt, Willibaldsburg, 85072 Eichstätt, Germany (e-mail:
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January 01, 2007


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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Geological Society, London, Special Publications

The Role of Women in the History of Geology

C. V. Burek
C. V. Burek
University of Chester, UK
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B. Higgs
B. Higgs
University College Cork, Ireland
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2007




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