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FIELD, GERTRUDE SELMA SOBER (1869-1949)

Known as "the Queen of the Arbuckles," geologist Gertrude Sober Field, one of four children of Morris Smith and Isabel Rebecca Beaston Sober, was born near Farragut, Fremont County, Iowa, on December 26, 1869. She and her family came to Oklahoma Territory during the Land Run of 1889. To support herself she learned stenography and worked for Oklahoma City "Judge" J. L. Brown.

However, Gertrude Sober was lured to the Arbuckle Mountains in the early 1900s by stories of mineral discoveries, including gold, silver, lead, and zinc, that she heard from individuals who had traveled to the Arbuckles with Charles N. Gould (an early director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey). The young, single woman, attired in a leather skirt and brimmed hat, strapped a pickax to her horse's saddle and headed south from Oklahoma City. Undaunted by ridicule from family and friends, she prospected for several years before discovering zinc near Davis, Oklahoma, in August 1909. She and Dr. R. C. Hope of Davis established the Indian Mining and Development Company. In 1913 she also acquired a mine in Sevier County, Arkansas. With her new-found wealth she enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, and in 1933 she was the first woman to receive a bachelor's degree in geology from that institution. In 1938 the Proceedings of the Oklahoma Academy of Science published her paper describing rock formations found in Noble County.

On January 5, 1918, Gertrude married Chester Field, who worked at the mine near Davis. He died in September 1918 due to the influenza epidemic. She never remarried and died November 1, 1949, in Oklahoma City. For paving the way for other women in the field of geology, in 1988 the Association for Women Geoscientists posthumously inducted Gertrude Sober Field into the National Mining Hall of Fame, at Leadville, Colorado.

SEE ALSO: MINING AND MINERAL DEPOSITS, NATURAL RESOURCES, OKLAHOMA GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, WOMEN, WOMEN AND WORK.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Opal Hartsell Brown, Indomitable Oklahoma Women (Oklahoma City: Western Heritage Books, 1994). Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 13 October 1918, 22 February 1931, and 2 November 1949. "Gertrude Sober Field," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Linda D. Wilson

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