Marie Stopes and the Fern Ledges of Saint John, New Brunswick
Marie Stopes (1880–1958) is best known for her controversial writings on sex, marriage and birth control, but during her 20s and 30s she carved out a successful career as a palaeobotanist. Here, we discuss her work on the Fern Ledges of Saint John, New Brunswick. The age of these fossil beds had long been shrouded in controversy. The eminent 19th-century geologist, Sir William Dawson, had argued that they were Devonian and represented remains of the oldest known terrestrial ecosystem. In 1910, Stopes was commissioned by the Geological Survey of Canada to reassess the taxonomy and age of this fossil flora. We provide the first detailed chronology of this 18-month long research project and highlight some of the most important aspects of the study. Her outstanding monograph, characterized by precise observation and interpretation, cut through decades of muddled thinking to prove that the beds were, in fact, Pennsylvanian. In addition, her palaeoecological inferences were well ahead of their time and also had biostratigraphical implications. Although she continued to intermittently publish geological works until the mid-1930s, the Fern Ledges project, which coincided with her disastrous first marriage to Reginald Gates, marked the beginning of the end of her palaeobotanical career and the start of her more extraordinary and enduring contribution to society.
Figures & Tables
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.