Student News

Elizabeth Bass wins the OSU Women’s Faculty Council Student Research Award


Bass Award Ceremony

PhD student Elizabeth Bass (left), advisee of Dr. Holly Karibo (right) is one of the recipients of the OSU Women’s Faculty Council Student Research Award in recognition of the quality and strength of her research activities on the history of women's labor in the oil industry! Congratulations, Elizabeth! 

Bass's project is currently titled "Scientists, Supporters, and Symbols: The Influence and Impact of Women on the Oil Industry, 1900-1970."  Her research was inspired by two period photographs. One is a photograph of the geology department at the University of Oklahoma circa 1906. There were several women in the photograph and she wondered what their stories might be. Where they only members of this class to receive a needed science credit, or were they budding geologists, hoping to work in paleontology or the burgeoning oil industry? The second photograph was one of an oil rig with a man overseeing several women working diligently to run the derrick. These women, however, were nude except for the stiletto heels on their feet. This pin-up image also raised questionsfor her about the connection of women to this vast, male-dominated industry.

Women are largely absent from the historiography of the oil industry, and Bass wanted to explore their contributions, both to the industry directly and to the boomtowns that surrounded oil fields. She has found women in scientific roles as geologists and geophysicists; women in support roles as secretaries in offices and cafe owners, hotel workers, and prostitutes in boomtowns; and women as symbols in the popular culture that has sprung from the romance of the oil fields. These women made significant contributions, but even more important are the communities they created. Women who worked directly in the industry created clubs and organizations to help each other succeed in their chosen profession, often at odds with societal norms and industry preferences. Women in boomtowns and later company towns shaped the interactions of all people within the town, including their husbands and children. Another interesting factor is the employment patterns of these women, which roughly follow the employment patterns of other industries--more women in the workforce during war years, fewer in inter- and post-war years, leading to Affirmative Action in the 1970s.

Bass Award Ceremony 2