Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM
FLORENCE BASCOM: PIONEERING U.S. WOMAN GEOLOGIST, EDUCATOR, AND MENTOR
Although Florence Bascom (1842-1945) is considered America’s pioneering woman geologist, her entrance into the discipline was not straightforward, but proceeded in sporadic pulses fueled by her hard work and leveraging of a network of male acquaintances. In 1893, Bascom was the first woman awarded the PhD from Johns Hopkins University. During her coursework there, she was required to sit in a corner behind a screen during lectures to avoid distracting her male colleagues! As the first professional woman geologist at the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Bascom gained access to a historically male discipline. The “dean of woman geologists” (Eckel 1982) investigated volcanic and metamorphic rocks of the Appalachians throughout her career. Her field research and analyses contributed to 37 published papers, including several USGS folios. Bascom also became the first US woman to participate extensively in our society: She was the Geological Society of America’s (GSA) second elected female fellow, and the first woman to present a paper to the Geological Society of Washington, serve on GSA’s Council, and serve as a GSA officer. While her professional participation in geology earned acceptance from male colleagues, Bascom had her greatest impact in furthering women’s participation in geology through her long academic career at Bryn Mawr College. She single-handedly founded the geology department and program, and subsequently taught and mentored several students who became part of the successive generation of US women geologists, including Ida Ogilvie, Julia Gardner, Eleanora Bliss, Anna Jonas (Stose), and Mary Porter. In 1932, Bascom claimed that “there was no merit in being the only one of a kind . . . I have considerable pride in the fact that some of the best work done in geology today by women, ranking with that done by men, has been done by my students.” Bascom’s high expectations, coupled with her reliance on field work and incorporation of cutting-edge analytical methods, ensured that women excelled in geology in the first half of the twentieth century.