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Geological Society of London marks 100 years of female Fellowship

100 years of female fellows logo

21 May 2019

On 21 May 1919, the world’s oldest Geological Society admitted its first eight women as members (Fellows), following a long campaign by female geologists and their supporters. The Geological Society is marking the anniversary with a conference exploring the history of women’s contributions to the geosciences, an exhibition at the Society’s headquarters at Burlington House, and an oral history project to record the memories of some of its most long-standing female members.

‘Women have been contributing to geology for as long as the science has existed’ says Geological Society Director of Science and Communications, Dr Alicia Newton. ‘Historically, and especially in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, their contributions – often in support of male family members – frequently went unacknowledged and unreported. We want to celebrate those women, as well as highlighting the amazing work carried out by our female Fellowship today.’

The first eight women elected included pioneering graptolite researcher Gertrude Elles and eminent palaeontologist Maria Matilda Gordon. A further five women were elected later in 1919. Female Fellowship of the Geological Society now stands at c. 29% out of total Fellowship of just over 12,000, and has been steadily increasing year on year.

‘There are still challenges’ says Newton, ‘particularly encouraging young women to consider science as a career path, and later, with issues surrounding fieldwork and career breaks. The Society is committed to supporting diversity in our Fellowship, and we’ve made it a priority to help encourage and celebrate equality and inclusion in geoscience education and professions. Last year, we launched a dedicated UK chapter of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity – Diversity in Geoscience UK – which works to promote these values and raise awareness on improving access and engagement in the geosciences throughout the UK.’

To mark the anniversary, the Society is launching an Oral History project in collaboration with its History of Geology Group, which aims to make contact with longstanding female members in order to record their experiences and memories.

‘We hope to both enhance our oral history archives, and provide a more balanced and accurate representation of the Society’s heritage’ says Newton.

The History of Geology Group is also holding a meeting on 21 May exploring the historical contributions women have made to geology – fittingly, on the birthday of Lyme Regis based palaeontologist Mary Anning.

An archive exhibition, “The First Women: An exhibition celebrating the centenary of female Fellowship of the Geological Society” is currently on display in the Society’s Lower Library and Lyell Room. Throughout May and June, the Society is also hosting ‘Raising Horizons’, an exhibition organised by TrowelBlazers and artist Leonora Saunders, which highlights both historical and current female figures in the field of archaeology and geology.


  1. The Geological Society of London, founded 1807, is a learned and professional body, of over 12,000 Earth scientists with a remit to investigate, interpret, discuss, inform and advise on the nature and processes of the Earth, their practical importance to humanity, and, in the interests of the public, to promote professional excellence. The Society offers advice to Parliament and Government, at individual and corporate levels. Registered Charity No. 210161. 
  2. Women elected as Fellows of the Geological Society in 1919:

Elected 21 May 1919

  1. Margaret Chorley Crossfield
  2. Gertrude Lilian Elles   
  3. Maria Matilda Ogilvie (married name: Gordon)
  4. Mary Sophia Johnston 
  5. (Mary) Jane Donald (married name: Longstaff)
  6. Rachel Workman (married name: MacRobert)
  7. Mildred Blanche Robinson       
  8. Ethel Gertrude Skeat (married name: Woods)

Elected 25 June 1919

  1. Catherine Alice Raisin
  2. Margaret Flowerdew Macphee (married name: Romanes)

Elected 3 December 1919

  1. Mary Heslop
  2. Hester Pengelly (married name: Julian)
  3. Dorothy Margaret Woodhead
  1. Further information about how the Society is marking the 100th anniversary, including details of our oral history project, may be found at
  2. ‘The first women’, an archive exhibition at Burlington House, is free to view from now until the end of September.
  3. Raising Horizons is free to view at the Society throughout May and June – details on how to visit may be found at
  4. Information about the Society’s History of Geology Group, including details of the 21 May conference, may be found at
  5. Diversity in Geoscience UK was founded in June 2018 – further information may be found at