Celebrating the Women of NCGE by Zach Dulli
On this International Women's Day of 2017, I am grateful to the countless women who have served, supported and led the National Council for Geographic Education over our 102-year history. Since our founding in 1915 women have played a critical role in our success.
The 1990 NCGE publication by James W. Vining, “The National Council for Geographic Education: The First Seventy-Five Years and Beyond” explains the role women played in the early years of our organization;
“From the very beginning, women were active in the National Council. They helped in establishing the organization and in nurturing it after its birth. Mabel Stark of Illinois State Normal University actively promoted membership in the NCGT* during its early years. She served as treasurer of the Council in 1920 and as a member of the Executive Committee from 1921 to 1923. Several women were members of the important administrative committee during the 1920s and 1930s: Bessie P. Knight, Erna Grassmuck, Alison E. Aitchison, Zoe A. Thralls, Angela Groening, Alice Foster, and Isabelle K. Hart. Women geographers served in all four of NCGT's national offices during the early years. The first woman to serve in this way was Stark, the Council's first woman treasurer.
Erna Grassmuck was the first woman second vice-president (1923), first vicepresident (1925), and president (1926). George J. Miller appointed her as an associate editor of the Journal in 1922, and she served in that capacity for many years. Nine women filled the office of second vice-president during the NCGT's first quarter century: Grassmuck (1923), Julia Shipman (1924), Stark (1925), Ella Jeffries (1927), Selma Abrams (1928), Myrtle Grenels (1929), Edith P. Parker (1932), Ella Hunting (1934), and Marguerite Uttley (1938). Seven women filled the position of first vice-president during the period 1915-1940: Grassmuck (1925), Knight (1928), Thralls (1931), Parker (1933), Aitchison (1935), Cora P. Sletten (1939), and Alice Foster (1940).
During more than half of the Council's first 25 years, it was not standard practice for the first vice-president to become president automatically. Nonetheless, five women were elected to the presidency after having served as first vice-president: Grassmuck (1926), Thralls (1932), Parker (1934), Aitchison (1936), and Sletten (1940).
The woman who gave the longest continuous service in one position was Cora P. Sletten of the State Teachers College in Mankato, Minnesota. She served as assistant editor of the Journal of Geography for 23 years, 1925 to 1948."
Past women NCGE Presidents have included: Almon E. Parkins; Erna Grassmuck; Zoe A. Thralls; Alison E. Aitcheson; Alice Foster; Katheryne T. Whittenmore; Mary V. Phillips; Mamie L. Anderzohn; Elizabeth Eiselen; Gail S. Ludwig; Dorothy W. Drummond; Gail A. Hobbs; Jody Smothers-Marcello; Susan W. Hardwick; Gwenda H. Rice; Martha B. Sharma; Jan Smith; Kristi Alvarez; Susan Hume; and most recently 2016 President Ellen Foster.
The George J. Miller Award, NCGE’s highest honor has been awarded to many of the most well-respected people in geography education including the following women: Almon E. Perkins; Alison Aitchison; Alice Foster; Edith Parker; Zoe A. Thralls; Cora P. Sletten; Erna G. Gilland; Katheryne T. Whittemore; Mamie L. Anderzhorn; Mary Viola Phillips; Elizabeth Eiselen; Barbara J. Winston; Ruth I. Shirey; Janice Monk; Martha B. Sharma; Osa E. Brand; Sarah W. Bednarz; Dorothy Drummond; Susan Hardwick; and most recently Barbara Hildebrant in 2015.
In my time at NCGE I have had the privilege of working with some of the smartest, most dedicated individuals whose commitment to geography education is unmatched. Since many of these individuals also happen to be women, and with it being International Women’s Day, I would like to send my sincerest message of thanks to the countless women who have led so remarkably well and will continue to lead the NCGE into the future.
Zachary R. Dulli, CEO
National Council for Geographic Education
- I look forward to celebrating the amazing work of more women in geography during our annual Women in Geography Education reception. This event is held annual during the annual conference so if you will be in Albuquerque this summer I encourage you to attend.
- It would be impossible for me to list every amazing woman in geography today, so please help me out. In the comments below please list the women(s) in geography that inspired you the most.
*Our original name was the National Council for Geography Teachers (NCGT) before it was changed, several years later, to the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE).