Friday Find: Geodesy, definitely a place for women

“Would you believe forty-four men and six women and no problems?” — 1967 ESSA World article, “Six lady geodesists prove that no place, but no place is no place for a woman”

A graphic with a blue backgrounds and black and white photos of six women who worked in NOAA’s Coast and Geodetic Survey, Geodesy Division in 1967. The headline reads, "The Women of NOAA's Geodesy Division, 1967". Their names are in script above or below each photo. Pictured are: Jeanne L. Hess, Catherine C. Mortenson, Jean S. Campbell, Roma W. Miller, Helen Stettner, and Maralyn Louise Vorhauer.

The women of NOAA’s Coast and Geodetic Survey, Geodesy Division in 1967. (Image credit: Graphic: NOAA Heritage, Photos: ESSA World)

NOAA Heritage Homepage

Black and white photo of a woman launching a weather balloon.

In 1967, there were six women in the Environmental Science Services Administration’s (ESSA) 50-person Coast and Geodetic Survey, Geodesy Division. The NOAA Heritage team found an old ESSA World article featuring them. It discusses their respective backgrounds, how they came to be geodesists, and a lot of commentary on their field-work capabilities as women. Now, NOAA’s Director for the National Geodetic Survey is a woman geodesist, Juliana P. Blackwell. She has held the position since 2009. Times have changed.

Maralyn Vorhauer sits in her home office with a laptop, notebook and pen in front of her.

Maralyn Vorhauer

“I was hired by what was then C&GS in 1965 straight out of college.. I stayed with the agency for all of my working career because I came to have a deep interest in the science, it was a professional environment to work in, and great people to work with... While a majority were always men at the time, I was not the first woman geodesist to be in the workforce and I never felt that I didn't have the opportunities and project assignments that everyone else did.”

National Geodetic Survey Director, Juliana Blackwell, touches the top of the Washington Monument with her forefinger. She stands on scaffolding surrounding the monument, wearing a hard hat and a safety vest.

Juliana Blackwell, NGS Director

“My background in math and science and love of the outdoors was a great fit with NOAA's mission. I began my career with NOAA as a Commissioned Officer and included several operational assignments — operating ships and small boats and serving on survey parties. I became fascinated with GPS and geodetic surveying which led me to a civilian position with NOAA's National Geodetic Survey (NGS) where I've held several management and leadership positions. Throughout my journey I've only ever experienced support, encouragement, and mentorship to reach for the next rung in the ladder.”


Have an idea for an artifact, photo, or document from NOAA’s history that you think we should feature in “Friday Finds!”? Send an email with a description and, if possible, a photo to

NOAA Heritage Homepage

Black and white photo of a woman launching a weather balloon.