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Geoscientist Online

Anomalies – Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology: 1917-2017

dtyiIf like me, you thought females were scarce in the early petroleum industry you will have your eyes opened by this well-illustrated book. However, the inevitably American focus must be taken into account when reading it; WWI and WWII (dated as beginning in 1917 and 1941 respectively), requiring American oil companies to employ women.  The first were hired by Roxana during WW1 - as employees not consultants. Read about Reba Masterson, the first female petroleum geologist.

In this female perspective of the oil industry history, Robbie Gries looks at available geological education. As in the UK, women could take geology classes during the early 20th Century but not graduate in the subject until 1919. After setting the initial context, the author provides small biographical studies of 149 female petroleum geologists (87 of whom are dead).

One outstanding woman - Julia Anna Gardner (1882-1960) - has her own chapter. She was the first petroleum biostratigrapher. She was taught by Frances Bascom at Bryn Mawr, published over 40 papers and has three fossils named after her, including the State Gastropod of Maryland. (Did you know Maryland had a State Gastropod?  Perhaps we should have county fossils for UK.)  During WWII, she used her knowledge of palaeontology to identify sand ballast shells in incendiary bombs from specific beaches in Japan.

The Interwar years saw increasing numbers of women employees in the petroleum industry. Katherine Woodley Carman, who died in 2008 aged 102, was an accomplished micropalaeontologist, obtaining a geology PhD from MIT in 1929. She was an AAPG member for 82 years - surely a record!

As in the UK, it was difficult for a woman to remain in position if she married, and many women quit their jobs to become consultants. The impact of Affirmative Action (1973) on hiring women is illustrated by the fascinating story of the author herself - who ended up running her own oil company in Denver. The book ends with 11 management ‘rock stars’ who were a result of the American 1980s Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. Similar legislation in the UK was passed in 1975.

The amount of research undertaken for this book is phenomenal, allowing the subjects to came alive as we see them in their work clothes or struggling with drill bits.

Robbie Gries calls this book ‘a celebration of 100 years of individual courage, fortitude and professionalism’. She recalls her own journey to discover lost stories of pioneering women. She does a remarkable job. I found this book readable and rewarding - perhaps not as a single read, but a book to enjoy over time.  After all, it was 100 years in the making.

Reviewed by: Cynthia Burek, University of Chester.

ANOMALIES – PIONEERING WOMEN IN PETROLEUM GEOLOGY: 1917-2017 by ROBBIE RICE GRIES, 2017.Published by JeWel Publishing LLC405pp (hbk) ISBN: 9781936499090 List Price: $50.00 W: www.jewelpublishing.com