2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


SKIPP, Betty, USGS, MS 964, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, blskipp@hotmail.com

Not until the 19th century did women enter the geological sciences as active professionals. At that time, they illustrated technical publications and hand-colored maps. The first woman to be granted a Ph.D. in geology was Mary Hodges, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 1887. A few women followed her to become teachers and assistants to male geoscientists. This scenario had not changed much in the middle of the 20th century when I joined the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in 1952. The petroleum industry employed a few women. Two percent of the geoscience work force in the USGS were women employed chiefly as editors and paleontologists. Field geologists such as Helen Foster (Alaska), Medora Krieger (Arizona) and Anna Heitenan (Idaho) were rare, but inspirational.

I was hired as an assistant to Clyde Polhemus Ross and was set to work illustrating block diagrams, doing color separations for maps, and constructing planimetric base maps from aerial photographs. After a few years, Clyde asked me to measure a carbonate section in south-central Idaho. That was the opening, and though I had not been allowed to take field geology in graduate school, I had written a mapping thesis, and Clyde and others guided me in the use of the plane table, alidade, and Jacob staff. Dating the carbonate section led me to study smaller calcareous foraminifers and algae abundant in the Idaho sections. Clyde also assigned me an area to map, and from there it was on to mapping in Montana and eventually back to Idaho.

Today, in the 21st century, as an emeritus retiree, my team has a woman chief scientist, a woman project leader, and I regularly interact with women colleagues in the USGS and academia. They are all field geologists. Women now comprise about 20.5% of the geoscience workforce in the USGS, 23.9% nationally (Source: EEO office USGS), a tenfold increase over 1952.