"Girls in Knickers"

Mount Rainier National Park, July 1928

Both men and women wore similar clothes out in the field, which made the differences in normal attire all the more apparent.  Courtesy of the New York State Museum

At the State Museum, Goldring was able to do fieldwork in addition to her research and writing. While this was normal for men in the field, the fact that she was a woman made some of her colleagues uncomfortable.  Many women in museums at this time did only clerical or support work and did not have the chance to do their own research at all.


One colleague was unusually candid with his reservations about women doing fieldwork.  Discussing another female scientist's choice to travel and work alone, he told Goldring "the trip was a dangerous one, especially for girls in knickers...it is all right for a man to make such a trip but for a girl, even armed with a revolver, never. You stay in Albany and work at the plants both fossil and recent."

Goldring disregarded this advice and went on a trip to Gaspé in Ontario on a personal project. She did, however, ask the American Consul about who to ask permission to carry a revolver in Canada.  Whether the revolvers mentioned in these letters are for animals or hostile strangers is unclear, but her gender was clearly part of her decision to carry one.

The Times-Union Salutes

Courtesy of the New York State Museum

In 1929, and probably many other points in time, Goldring expressed private frustration at the lack of opportunities for women in her field. She criticized professors at universities for encouraging women to specialize in a field that almost never hired women on as researchers. Most women interested in science ended up working for very small, local museums as administrators or in slightly larger institutions as clerical or educational assistants - skilled positions, according to Goldring, but not specialized ones.  She also made so little money that she doubted she could have lived independently on her income.  She often hid these thoughts from her male colleagues; those she did tell encouraged her to try to ignore it and concerntrate on her work.  

Her appointment to State Paleontologist in 1939 was groundbreaking at the time, and newspapers were abuzz with the progress or changes implied by the promotion. Was Goldring satisfied with this personal victory, or did the lack of opportunities for the majority of women scientists dull the edge of her success?

Woman Scientist
"Girls in Knickers"