2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)
Paper No. 120-5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-9:15 AM


CLARY, Renee M., Geosciences, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box 5448, Mississippi State, MS 39762, rclary@geosci.msstate.edu and WANDERSEE, James H., Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice, Louisiana State University, Room 223 F, Peabody Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803

Florence Bascom, the first professional US woman geologist, achieved her greatest and lasting effects through her teaching and training of other women geologists via her position at Bryn Mawr College. Although Bascom was territorial in her fieldwork and disliked others trespassing within a research area that she considered to be her own (Arnold, 1983), her geology students rose to challenge her interpretation of the Wissahickon mica schist. Eleanora Bliss and Anna Jonas Stose proposed an age of Precambrian for the mica schist, as well as the presence of the Martic Overthust, in geological opposition to their esteemed mentor's interpretation.

Even when publicly contradicting her students' views, Bascom remained succinct and relatively dispassionate. She offered only “an alternative hypothesis tentatively held by the writer” (Bascom & Stose, 1932). Eventually, Benjamin Miller (1935, p. 755) challenged Stose's and Bliss' analysis, and concluded “Bascom's views concerning the age of these schists should not have been set aside.” Bascom's original interpretation prevailed at that time, with eventual modifications to the present day.

We assert that this controversy should be seen as an educational victory for Bascom, in addition to a geologic one. Our previous research (Clary & Wandersee, 2005) mapped Bascom's movements into the geological realm as predicated upon male contacts already in place. It was also another male—Miller—who directly challenged Bascom's students. Bascom strove for gender anonymity and free thinking; she was moderate and not discouraging in her attempt to promote her own interpretations about the Wissahickon above that of her students'. Historical evidence suggests to us that the challenge of Bascom's interpretation of the Wissahickon mica schist by her former students should appear as a triumph of her teaching: Bascom obviously had trained her students well to think independently, and to communicate their findings with vigor in a decidedly male arena. Stose and Bliss moved beyond their mentor by becoming the first professional US women geologists to publicly challenge an authority figure. Bascom, fond of saying that she did not want to be a one-of-a-kind woman geologist, witnessed this educational eclipse by her students.

2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 120
History of Geology Division and History of the Earth Sciences Society Anniversary Celebration
Pennsylvania Convention Center: 112 A
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 38, No. 7, p. 300

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