Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology

Just published!

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Daring to Dig: Adventures of
Women in American Paleontology

Daring to Dig: Women in American Paleontology

Science is a human endeavor. As a result, the history of science is punctuated by stories of human triumph at its greatest, and stories of ignorance and repression at its worst. The stories found within the careers of women paleontologists throughout the history of the discipline contain both.

American women have long shaped our understanding of the history of life on Earth, from the detailed illustrations of Orra White Hitchcock to the innovative ideas of Esther Applin. Yet many women were discouraged from careers in paleontology and their work was often dismissed or ignored. Even after the idea of women pursuing higher education and careers was considered socially acceptable, women were frequently discouraged from entering science in general, and the Earth sciences in particular. Even today, women comprise only 23% of the membership of the Paleontological Society, the leading US professional organization in the field.

PRI has been at the forefront of paleontological discovery since its founding in 1932, and also has ties with many leading women paleontologists of the past. PRI’s founder, Gilbert Harris, was a professor of geology at Cornell University for 40 years, and for decades was the only member of his department who would accept women as graduate students. He advised a number of women who went on to significant careers in paleontology, in the US and abroad, including Katherine Palmer, Carlotta Maury, Pearl Sheldon, and Lois Schoonover.

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Announcing our latest book!

Daring to Dig: Adventures of Women in American Paleontology

The Paleontological Research Institution (PRI) is pleased to announce publication of a graphic-novel style book for children (target ages 8-12) titled Daring to Dig: Adventures of Women in American Paleontology, authored by Beth Stricker and illustrated by Alana McGillis. Women have played a critical role in the development of the science of paleontology in America, but for many years their accomplishments have been overshadowed by those of men. Daring to Dig highlights the adventures and research achievements of a dozen women paleontologists, both from the past century and active today. The challenges they faced—both societal and scientific—are explored through a series of colorfully illustrated vignettes, as are their successes in overcoming these challenges. This book shows children that paleontology is a science for everyone, and also introduces them to a variety of ancient organisms that are commonly missing from children's books about prehistoric life. Daring to Dig concludes with brief biographical sketches of each of the twelve women featured in the book, as well as a glossary of scientific terms. The ISBN number for Daring to Dig is: 978-0-87710-521-3; its retail price is $19.95. Daring to Dig may be ordered directly from PRI or through Amazon; for questions about ordering, please email publications@museumoftheearth.org.

Here's a recent review of Daring to Dig by Kirkus Reviews:

“A debut children’s book describes the contributions of women past and present to paleontology in the United States.

Most kids are fascinated by fossils, especially of dinosaurs, but they may not know about the female experts who have helped advance the science of paleontology. As the book acknowledges, most workers in this field have been men, mainly because “many men did not think women should have jobs, go to college, or become scientists.” Nevertheless, they persisted. From Annie Montague Alexander (1867-1950) through Phoebe Cohen (“alive and digging!”), this volume highlights some of the female paleontologists’ greatest exploits. Alexander, for example, discovered the fossilized bones of a prehistoric marine reptile in 1903; with her companion Louise Kellogg, she donated more than 20,000 specimens to the University of California. In her book, Stricker offers approachable chunks of information in a friendly, graphic-novel format, which succeeds in making the pursuit of science sound like an exciting adventure. Though the work is keyed to young readers, nothing is dumbed down, and the author carefully shows why the paleontologists’ achievements were significant. Debut illustrator McGillis’ highly appealing and informative images strongly support the text; the women’s personalities come alive and vivid details show historic and scientific context. About to flee Nazi Germany, a Jewish scientist, Tilly Edinger, reflects: “One way or the other, fossil vertebrates will save me.” She went on to found the field of paleoneurology.

Splendidly entertaining and informative—ideal for any kid interested in fossils.”

— Kirkus Reviews (review)

Breaking News!

Alana McGillis, the book’s illustrator, was recently interviewed by the folks at MaryAnningsRevenge.com

“When I was a little kid, I loved collecting fossils, but I didn't know the names of any women paleontologists to look up to. This cheerful, colorful book solves the problem. It'll introduce kids to a dozen adventuring, dirt-stomping, fossil-finding heroes who just so happen to be women, too.”

— Rosemary Mosco, science cartoonist and author, www.birdandmoon.com

“Daring to Dig presents a colorful exploration into some of the groundbreaking, brilliant, and brave women of American paleontology. Significantly, Daring to Dig explores historical challenges, contextualizes the science, and documents the great diversity of women and fossils that make up the wonderful discipline of paleontology.”

— Alycia Stigall, Professor of Geological Sciences at Ohio University

“All too often, girls come to the mistaken belief that science is just for men. In Daring to Dig, Beth Stricker and Alana McGillis show us that paleontology is, and has always been, a science for women too. Through a sequence of colorful, beautifully illustrated stories, they offer up a celebration of the remarkable history of female paleontologists in America.”

— Scott D. Sampson, Ph.D., President & CEO, Science World British Columbia; Host, PBS KIDS Dinosaur Train; Author, You Can Be a Paleontologist!

“This fun and fabulous book about a dozen brilliant paleontologists would make Mary Anning proud. I hope that this is just part one of a series because there are a lot more great female paleontologists out there.”

— Kirk Johnson, Sant Director, Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History