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History of AAPGWN

Women Petroleum Geologists of the Past

Women worked in petroleum geology long before AAPG was formed, doing field and laboratory work, and publishing in the leading scientific journals. These biographical sketches are intended to educate AAPG members and other interested readers. The collection is currently limited to profiles of women geologists that worked in the North American petroleum industry before 1945. The AAPG Women's Network (AAPGWN) committee hopes to expand the profiles to women outside North America. We begin by exploring the observation that many of the first women in petroleum geology specialized in paleontology.

Why Paleontology?

Michele Aldrich, in a 1982 article suggests that society’s acceptance of 19th century women’s involvement in the genteel practices of collecting and illustrating fossils led to this focus on paleontology (Women in Paleontology in the United States, 1840 to 1960; Earth Sciences History, v. 1, p. 14 – 22). On the other hand, half of all the early women paleontologists worked in the petroleum industry, contradicting stereotypes of a male-dominated industry. Aldrich also observes that many of the women specialized in microfossils when that subject was in its infancy, perhaps because the field was more open to women.

Carlotta Maury (1874 – 1938)
Dr. Carlotta Maury
Dr. Carlotta Maury

Dr. Maury was one of the first women employed by an oil company – working for Royal Dutch Shell, Venezuela Division, as a consulting geologist and stratigrapher starting in 1910. She received her Ph.D. in geology from Cornell University in 1902 and spent her adult life as a cosmopolitan, freelance geologist specializing in mollusk paleontology and stratigraphy of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Brazil.

She led or participated in many Caribbean field expeditions and worked for the Geological and Mineralogical Service of Brazil, where she published extensively from 1919 to 1937. Her studies of the Cibao Valley, Dominican Republic, resulted in classic references on the fossils and stratigraphy of the region.

Dr. Maury’s extensive U.S. publications were primarily in the Bulletin of American Paleontology, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the Bulleting of the American Museum of Natural History. She was a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, AAAS and the American Geographical Society.

For more information:

  • Reeds, Chester A., 1939, Memorial to Carlotta Joaquina Maury, Proceedings of the Geological Society of America for 1938, May 1939, p. 157-168.
  • http://william-morris.net/Carlotta_Joaquina_Maury/ Includes biographical information on Dr. Maury as well as excerpts from her report on Santo Domingo paleontology and stratigraphy originally published in the Bulletin of American Paleontology in 1917.
Fannie Carter Edison (1887-1952)
Fannie Carter Edison
Fannie Carter Edison

Fannie Edson received her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1914 and, after marriage and the birth of her daughter; she did additional studies at the University of Oklahoma. In 1924, she joined Roxana Petroleum Corporation (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell). At Roxana in Tulsa, Ms. Edson specialized in stratigraphic correlation using well samples and developed the company sample lab for the Mid-Continent. Well sample studies were critical to subsurface correlations in the late 1920’s when Mid-Continent drilling was frenetic and electric logs were not available. In 1938 Ms. Edson left Shell to become a consulting geologist and from 1942 to 1945 she worked for the U.S. Geological Survey. Ms. Edson was an AAPG member and published extensively in the AAPG Bulletin. She was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 1938.

For more information:

  • Leiser, J.B., 1953, Memorial of Fannie Carter Edson, AAPG Bulletin, v.37, no. 5, p. 1182 – 1186.
Alva Christine Ellisor (1892-1964)
Alva Christine Ellisor
Alva Christine Ellisor

Alva Ellisor graduated from the University of Texas with a BS degree in geology in 1915 and after additional study went to work for Humble Oil and Refining Company for a summer. After additional studies and teaching at the University of Kansas, she returned to work for Humble, where she specialized in Gulf Coast foraminifera and organized the Houston paleontology laboratory. With two other pioneering women geologists, Esther Richards (Applin) and Hedwig Kinker, she published “Subsurface Stratigraphy of the Coastal Plain of Texas and Louisiana” (AAPG Bull. 1925, v. 9. p. 79-122). This reference and subsequent publications that established many microfaunal zonations of the Gulf Coast facilitated the discovery of many Gulf Coast oil fields. Ms. Ellisor was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 1929. She was a member of the AAPG, SEPM and Houston Geological Society and published extensively in the AAPG Bulletin.

For more information:

  • Teas, L.P., 1965, In Memoriam, Alva Christine Ellisor, Houston Geological Society Bulletin, v. 7, no. 6, p. 9-16.
Virginia Harriett Kline (1910 – 1959)
Virginia Harriett Kline
Virginia Harriett Kline

Virginia Klein was born, raised, and educated in Michigan, where she received her Ph.D. in geology from the University of Michigan in 1935. After graduation she worked as a stratigrapher for several oil companies including Sohio in the Tri-State area (IL, IN, KY). In 1943-1944 she worked as a petroleum analyst for the Petroleum Administration for War, the World War II agency that set up the Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts that continues as today’s PADDs. In 1944 she joined the Illinois State Geological Survey, where she worked on oil and gas studies until her death. Dr. Klein was a member of the AAPG from 1946.

For more information:

  • Oros, Margaret O., 1962, Memorial to Virginia Harriett Klein, Proceedings of the Geological Society of America for 1960, p. 115-118.
Dorothy Kemper Palmer (1897 – 1947)

Dorothy Palmer started her studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 1918, where she was one of the first three women to major in geology. She received her MA in geology from that institution in 1922. She joined Rio Bravo Oil Company in 1924 and specialized in Gulf Coast and Caribbean microfaunal stratigraphy. She was employed by Atlantic Refining Company from 1930 to 1933 and from 1940 to her death. From 1929 she lived and worked in Cuba, often working with her husband, geologist Robert Palmer. Both were members of AAPG.

For more information:

  • The Micropaleontologist, v. 1, no. 2, p. 18-19, October 1947.
Louise Jordan (1908 – 1966)

Louise Jordan received her MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1931 then taught for two years at the American College for Girls in Istanbul, Turkey before returning to the U.S. to teach at Mount Holyoke College and pursue doctoral studies. Here studies were interspersed with work for the Turkish Mineral Research and Exploration Institute and Anzac Oil Company in Coleman, Texas. She received her Ph.D. from MIT in 1939. Her specialty was micropaleontology and stratigraphy. She worked for Sun Oil Company in Texas and Florida for nine years before becoming a consulting geologist. She worked for the Oklahoma Geological Survey from 1955 to her death.

For more information:

  • Nicholson, Alex, 1968, Memorials-Dr. Louise Jordan, AAPG Bulletin, v.52, no. 10, p. 2058-20
  • Memorial in January 1967 Oklahoma Geology Notes, v. 27, no. 1, p. 3-8.

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AAPGWN Contacts

Audrey Corte
Audrey Corte Programs Coordinator, American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) 918-560-9426
Susie Nolen
Susie Nolen Programs Team Leader, AAPG +1 918 560-2634