Goldring, Winifred (1888–1971)

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Goldring, Winifred (1888–1971)

American paleontologist who was the official state paleontologist of New York from 1939 to 1954. Born in Albany, New York, in 1888; died in Albany, New York, in 1971; fourth of eight daughters of Frederick (a florist) and Mary (Grey) Goldring; granted undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wellesley College, 1909 and 1912, respectively; postgraduate study at Columbia and Johns Hopkins universities; never married; no children.

A pioneering woman in the field of paleontology, Winifred Goldring felt so isolated at times that she once advised young women thinking of going into science to pick a specialty like botany where they would encounter enough other women to make them feel comfortable. However, Goldring, a Phi Beta Kappa and Durant Scholar, knew even as a college student the unusual path she would follow. After graduating from Wellesley in 1909, she stayed on to assist geology professor Elizabeth F. Fisher. Goldring subsequently taught geology and petrology at Wellesley and pursued her studies further at Columbia and Johns Hopkins before returning to Albany in 1914. At that time, she was hired as a "scientific expert" in the Hall of Invertebrate Paleontology at the New York State Museum. Under the museum's director, John M. Clarke, she developed exhibits and researched mid-Paleozoic crinoids (small marine animals of the phylum Echinodermata).

During her long association with the museum, interrupted only by a year at Johns Hopkins in 1921, Goldring pursued research on a "missing link" between algae and vascular plants and also made Albany's plant collection one of the world's best. Cited for her educational exhibits, Goldring published a textbook on fossils in 1929.

Although she was considered an expert and was well respected among her peers, Goldring endured gender discrimination as well as isolation in her chosen field. Her salary ($2,300) was never on a par with those of her male colleagues at the museum, and she was turned down for a position with the U.S. Geological Survey in 1928, because they wanted to hire a "he-man" type. Determined, however, never to allow her gender to limit her work in the field, Goldring fitted herself with a specially designed walking outfit with bloomers and learned to shoot a revolver. She also compensated by overworking, and once pushed herself to the point of a nervous collapse. Biases aside, Goldring's male colleagues elected her president of the Paleontological Society in 1949 and vice president of the Geological Society in 1950.

At age 67, Goldring retired and withdrew completely from the world of science. She spent her last years within her family circle in Albany. She died there in 1971, two days shy of her 83rd birthday.


Bailey, Brooke, The Remarkable Lives of 100 Women Healers and Scientists. Holbrook, MA: Bob Adams, 1994.

Weatherford, Doris. American Women's History. NY: Prentice Hall, 1994.

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Goldring, Winifred (1888–1971)

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