Remembering contributions of all oilfield pioneers.

 

The American Oil & Gas Historical Society (AOGHS), community museums, and professional associations have sought ways to preserve written histories of the men and women who have worked in the industry. Many museum have established oral (and video) history collections. In 2017, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) published Anomalies – Pioneering Women in Petroleum Geology: 1917 to 2017.

This AOGHS website provides another resource for those wanting to share their career experiences in the petroleum industry. When contacted with family stories, the historical society tries to post some of the personal oilfield stories of women, including oilfield crew leader Tamara George. Helping add to this chronicle of oilfield women pioneers, a 2020 email from the son of Lynda Armstrong noted her working as a roustabout for Gulf Oil in 1974. 

Lynda Armstrong: Gulf Oil Roustabout

Although Tamara George’s pioneering work as a roustabout foreman was notable, other determined women made similar pioneering oilfield achievements (see Women of the Offshore Petroleum Industry tell Their Stories). In August 2020, John Armstrong emailed the historical about his late mother’s accomplishments. He reported that In 1974, Lynda Armstrong worked in Goldsmith Texas, outside of Odessa, “as a roustabout for Gulf Oil before becoming the foreman for the water injection plant that is located on the Y.T .Ranch in Goldsmith.”

Lynn Armstrong working in Texas oilfield

“I blazed a few trails in my days,” noted the late Lynn Armstrong about her oilfield career.

Armstrong would go on to teach corrosion technology at Odessa College and Eastern New Mexico University. “I blazed a few trails in my days,” she later explained about her oil patch career: “Gulf Oil, first woman to be hired in 1974 as roustabout; Arco lease operator; Enserch production supervisor; ENMU-R production technology instructor; Odessa College technology instructor.”

Tamara George: Roustabout Crew Leader

In early 1980s in Texas Panhandle oilfields, Tamara L. George led a skilled service company crew. Among the very first women to hold the dangerous, labor-intensive job, her oilfield journey began at D-J’s Roustabout and Well Services in Borger, Texas. “At the time two brothers owned the company, Jerry Nolan, who handled the office work, and Harold Nolan, who did everything outside the office, George explained in a December 2018 email to AOGHS.

“It was Harold Nolan who wanted to hire me, but Don Nolan was not keen on this idea thinking I would be problems that I could not handle the work, get along with the men,” she added. “Don did not know I had been an Industrial, commercial and residential electrician, apprentice iron welder, and an auto body technician.”

rig on display outside oil museum in Borger, texas.

The Hutchinson County Historical Museum in Borger exhibits North Texas petroleum heritage with emphasis on the oilfield boom of the 1920-1930 era. Photo by Bruce Wells.

She said Nolans gave her a chance, and “within six months I moved to being a roustabout foreman running my own crew,” George explained in her note to the historical society. “I was the most requested crew in the Texas Panhandle oilfields.”

After leading her crews in the 1980s, George has proclaimed herself to be “only woman to ever hold such a position,” and even the “first woman to be a roustabout foreman in oilfield history!” Her personal oilfield record (which she is still researching) may extend to Canada, where she worked a few months as a roustabout foreman for Pangea Oil & Gas Company of Calgary, Alberta. And there’s still more to her career firsts. “When the oilfield shut down, I went into medicine,” she noted, adding that she returned to school to work on advanced degrees in radiology and gastroenterology. Then came a personal health crisis.

“I was around two years into obtaining my doctorates when a fatal tumor revealed itself,” George explained. “The tumor had caused a rather large aneurysm to which the doctors shook their heads in disbelief.” It was a mystery to her doctors how the roustabout foreman survived while doing such labor intensive work of the oil industry. In the years since her service company work, George, who today lives in Elk City, Oklahoma, has “not come across any women doing what I did” earlier in the oilfields.

Oil History of Borger, Texas

Thousands of people rushed to the Texas Panhandle in early 1926 after Dixon Creek Oil and Refining Company completed the Smith No. 1 well, which flowed at 10,000 barrels of oil a day in southern Hutchinson County. A.P. “Ace” Borger of Tulsa, Oklahoma, leased a 240-acre tract and by September his Borger oilfield had more than 800 producing wells, yielding 165,000 barrels a day Dedicated in 1977, the Hutchinson County Boom Town Museum in Borger today celebrates “Oil Boom Heritage” every March. Special exhibits, events and school tours occur throughout the Borger celebration, about 40 miles northeast of Amarillo.

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The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact bawells@aoghs.org. Copyright © 2020 Bruce A. Wells. All rights reserved.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Women Oilfield Roustabouts.” Author: Aoghs.org Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: https://www.aoghs.org/petroleum-pioneers/women-oilfield-roustabouts. Last Updated: September 6, 2020. Original Published Date: December 6, 2018.

 

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