Now we all know that getting a job in a prestigious organization like the British Geological Survey can be tough. You have to have a high quality education and a lot of determination and drive.
Unfortunately before WW2, even if we had these things in abundance, many of us still wouldn’t have been able to get a job as we would be missing a final essential component – you had to be a man.
Eileen Guppy (c. 1904-1980) was the first female geologist in the Survey. During the war many women worked in roles vacated by men who had beencalled up to fight – Eileen was one of these women. Having already demonstrated her ability as a petrologist and analytical chemist for over 20 YEARS, she was finally given the official title and responsibilities of ‘Geologist’ in 1943.
Sadly, Eileen’s role as a geologist with the BGS was short lived. After the end of the war, in 1946, she was demoted. Lucky Eileen instead got to stay on at the BGS as the scientific assistant to the director!
In her amazing 43 year career, she was only every officially recognised as ‘Geologist’ for three of them, her contributions to many BGS publications and reports rarely credited.
However frustrating it must have been for her, Eileen’s work opened the doors of the BGS so that one day, women could have equal rights as men to call themselves……. a Geologist.
Eileen Guppy – a true trowelblazer.
Written by Hazel Gibson – @iamhazelgibson
Edited by Tori
Content sources: Haines, C.M.C. (2001) International women in science: a biographical dictionary to 1950 & this pdf