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International Women’s day is March 8 and March is Women’s History Month – What Role Have Women Played in the History of Mapmaking?

Many women’s organizations and governments around the world observe International Women’s Day annually on March 8th. The United States designates the whole month of March as Women’s History Month.  The role of women in the history of mapmaking reminds us to celebrate the accomplishments of women and girls throughout history, and the need to keep working to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained in all aspects of life, all over the map.

Judith Tyner, Professor Emerita of Geography, California State University, Long Beach, has researched and shared a lot of the history of women in cartography. She says that Women have played many roles in the history of cartography. There are the usual assumptions, marginal activities, traditional woman’s roles of piece work that could be done at home: coloring maps,  map folding, and stitching atlases. In the 19th century, women taught geography, maps, and “the use of the globes” to privileged young ladies.  The usual way that women would become involved in mapmaking business, was through family. The map trades, printing, and engraving have traditionally been family businesses.

But when you examine maps for the names of engravers, publishers and printers, you discover that women have been involved in cartography from the early days of mapping.   Women were publishers, map sellers, cartographers, drafters, editors, engravers, globemakers, printers, colorists, folders, stitchers, teachers of map reading and mapmaking, cartographic historians, map librarians, and patrons of cartography!

“By the beginning of the twentieth century, the identities of cartographers and map traders had become even more obscure.  Large cartographic firms such as Rand McNally and Hammond formed and began using wax engraving and lithography techniques; map engravers and compilers no longer signed their maps. As companies grew, few retained records… Over time old records were destroyed in the name of efficiency.”

This fits with what I have recently learned about Williams & Heintz, from my cousin Jeanette Schuder, about my Great Aunt Ruth, Born Ruth Lillian Heintz (1913 – 2011)

“Her father co-owned the William and Heintz Company, a lithographic business in DC.  She worked for her dad’s company as a topographical engineer and she drew maps of Bakersfield, California and other new cities.  She also worked for the Geological Survey and drew the original maps of the unmapped territory of the Yukon.”

Ruth was married August 22, 1936, so I figure that her work as a mapmaker was in the early 1930s.  A quick google search for “Bakersfield CA map 1930s” yields  these maps, from the University of Texas Libraries, that may be some of the maps that she worked on.

Bakersfield CA Quad USGS Edition of 1906 Reprint 1936

Avawatz Mountains CA USGS 1933

Even before the second World War, women were encouraged to work as cartographers and cartographic drafters.  During the war, they were hired to replace the men, due to the wartime demand for maps. Government agencies in the U. S. were hiring women because they recognized that our maps were out of date and had insufficient coverage. Women were preferred for drafting, computing and photogrametry. Collections were scattered. Map librarians played an important role in the collection and distribution of maps for the war effort.

Women did not give up cartography after the war. They were successful, and continued to take advantage of trainings  at universities, and job opportunities. Marie Tharp was encouraged to study geology and drafting, she made important contributions to mapping. You can  read about them in  Honoring Marie Tharp, Oceanographic Cartographer, for International Women’s Day

and

How Do You Map the Ocean Floor? A review of the book, Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor, by Hali Felt

Today, women work in all aspects of the mapping industry, from GIS to map printing. Since World War II, we have seen the greatest rise in the number of women involved in the field.  However, continued vigilance and action is still necessary to ensure that women’s equality is gained and maintained.

Mary Beth Smith, of “Girls Who Print” said, in response to an example of blatant discrimination in the work place today,

” Lets work together. Let the ignorant know that their behavior is neither admired nor tolerated. Show your spouses, your daughters, your sons, and everyone in your orbit your conviction that this is unacceptable behavior. Isn’t it time we stopped acting like this doesn’t happen? Do we not WANT young people and women to bring their gifts, talents, training and expertise to an industry sorely in need of a fresh approach?”

References:

Tyner, Judith, “The Hidden Cartographers: Women in Mapmaking,” Mercator’s World, volume 2, number 6, November/December 1997, pp. 46-51.

Tyner, Judith, “Millie the Mapper and Beyond: The Role of Women in Cartography Since World War II,” Meridian – Map and Geography Round Table of the American Library Association No. 15 1999  pp23-28.

Thanks Judith!

Honoring Marie Tharp, Oceanographic Cartographer, for International Women’s Day

Marie Tharp's Physiographic Diagram of the North Atlantic Ocean

Marie Tharp’s Physiographic Diagram of the North Atlantic Ocean

In honor of International Women’s day my post today is about an important woman in map printing history.  In fact Marie Tharp (1920-2006) is an important contributor to the studies of, cartography, geography, and oceanography, woman or man.

 “Tharp was the first to map the unseen topography of the ocean floor on a global scale. Her observations became crucial to the eventual acceptance of the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift in the earth sciences. Working with pens, ink and rulers, Tharp drew the underwater details, longitude degree by latitude degree, described by thousands of sonar readings taken by Columbia University researchers and others. Her maps have since become modern scientific and popular icons.” http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/06/08/tharp.html

Marie Tharp worked with Bruce Heezen at the Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory.  They were the co-creators of the first global map of the ocean floor and co-discoverer of the central rift valley that runs through the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

“As details of the ocean floor emerged, Tharp noticed a fascinating feature. A well-known mountain range running down the Atlantic, known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, appeared as expected. But as Tharp’s careful drafting made clear, there was also a valley that ran down through the middle of the mountain range. It was a hugely important geophysical feature; this “rift valley” marked a dynamic seam in the crust of the planet, the boundary of huge continent-size plates where new portions of crust rose from the interior of the earth to the surface like a conveyor belt and then, in a geological creep known as “drift,” moved outward in both directions from the midocean ridge.

The idea that vast tracts of the earth’s crust moved across the surface, known as continental drift, was unpopular at the time. Most geophysicists were “fixists” who believed the planet’s surface was static, and Tharp later remarked that a scientist could be fired for being a “drifter” in the 1950s. But she was the first to see the signature of plate tectonics on the surface of the earth, and Heezen was the first of many scientists who rudely dismissed it. “Girl talk,” he said. “It cannot be. It looks too much like continental drift.” It took Tharp the better part of a year to convince him.” http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/31/magazine/31Tharp.t.html?_r=2

Marie Tharp came to Williams and Heintz Map Corp. with her drawings.  From her camera copy, we made film negatives. From the film negatives we made the color separations for the land tint and the water tint. From these, we made printing plates.   The job printed in three colors.

Williams & Heintz Map Corp can still print your map using film, if you need it. We can still make edits to, proof, and print from film. The man-hours involved in updating a film job can be much less than the thousands of man-hours required digitizing a whole new map. We can even combine digital correction copy with film based layers.

UPDATE:  Read more about Marie Tharp in my book review of  Soundings:  The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor, by Hali Felt.

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