GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 140-2
Presentation Time: 8:20 AM


CLARY, Renee M., Department of Geosciences, Mississippi State University, 101D Hilburn Hall, Mississippi State, MS 39762

Winifred Goldring (1888-1971), “grandame” of New York State paleontology, became interested in science as a career when she was required to complete two science courses at Wellesley College. She majored in zoology and botany, and later completed her master’s at Wellesley with Harvard’s William M. Davies as her thesis professor. Although Goldring disliked lecturing and never pursued an academic appointment, her first occupation (1912-1914) was as an instructor at Wellesley (petrology, geology) and the Teachers’ School of Science (geography). Her career trajectory would change when New York State Museum Director John Clarke offered her summer employment in 1914 as a “scientific expert.” Goldring continued with the museum but would not gain a permanent position until she became Associate Paleontologist in 1920. In 1939, she was appointed State Paleontologist (1939-1954), the first woman to hold that title in the United States.

In 1916, Clarke assigned Goldring to a massive research project, the revision of NY’s Devonian crinoids. She successfully completed the research within 7 years to professional accolades, and crinoids would continue as a career-long interest. Goldring also researched Devonian plants and stromatolites. While she personally disliked formal teaching, she recognized the impact of education. Her 1923 crinoid monograph included introductory material for paleontology students; she popularized public paleontology through handbooks, textbooks, and innovative museum displays.

Goldring was forced to develop creative ways to circumvent the barriers she encountered as a professional woman in paleontology, while maintaining her perfectionistic research approach. Her mental health suffered, however. Frustrated by the prejudicial treatment of women in geology, Goldring encouraged women to consider botany and zoology instead. Yet, it was through her perseverance that Goldring trudged a path forward and unwittingly became a role model for other women drawn to paleontology. She served as the first woman President of the Paleontological Society (1949), and became the inspiration for the Winifred Goldring award, given annually since 1998, to an outstanding female student pursuing a paleontology career.