Dallasite who cleared way for women in archaeology, helped unearth Texas\' past receives honor
06-26-08 - North America — , Texas
After decades of men digging holes in the ground looking for clues to Texas\' past, it turns out that what the state\'s history needed was a woman\'s touch.
While the pros were making jokes about high heels ruining ancient artifacts, Kathleen Gilmore, a Dallas archaeologist, was discovering some of the state\'s most important historical sites – such as explorer La Salle\'s Fort St. Louis near the Gulf – and blazing a trail for women in a field considered too dirty to be feminine.
On Monday, at age 93 and still enamored with telling the stories of history, Ms. Gilmore received the Governor\'s Award for Historic Preservation – the state\'s highest honor for historical work.
\"The rich history of our great state has been preserved for the education and enjoyment of generations, thanks to historical stewards like Dr. Gilmore,\" Gov. Rick Perry said in a closed ceremony at his Capitol office Monday, as Ms. Gilmore stood flanked by family, friends and admirers in the field. \"Texas is grateful for her dedication to preserving our past so that it may inspire our future.\"
Ms. Gilmore pinpointed the spot where French explorer La Salle built his Fort St. Louis decades before the discovery of his cannons confirmed it in 1998. She also is credited with excavations and projects at Lyndon B. Johnson\'s birthplace. She specializes in Texas missions, including Mission San Saba.
And all this after pursuing her love of archaeology at age 49, with two grown children and a career in geology already under her belt.
\"She is one of the pioneers of historical archaeology in the country,\" said Jim Bruseth, director of the archaeology division at the Texas Historical Commission. \"And for Texas archaeology, Kathleen was one of the first archaeologists to investigate some of our very important historical sites around the state.\"
The diminutive, blue-eyed Ms. Gilmore likes to say she spent \"the first 25 years of my life growing up and becoming a geologist, the second 25 years raising my children, and the third 25 years studying and becoming an archaeologist.\"
\"Before you start a project, you go back and get every bit of information you can from the past about that particular place, and then you have a feeling for that,\" she said. \"You know what has gone on there, and you can build the next thing without their mistakes.
\"A lot of us have that nostalgic trip. We like to know what went on in the past, because people built it. People like us. And they\'re still building. ... So that\'s my feeling about it, really. And it\'s fun.\"
The first woman president of the Society for Historical Archaeology and one of the first archaeology students at Southern Methodist University, Ms. Gilmore helped develop a fledgling field of digging for evidence of published history, experts say. And she also opened the doors for women in a field largely dominated by men.
\"For years, I think people just thought logically only men should go out and dig in the dirt like that, look for artifacts,\" Mr. Bruseth said. \"And Kathleen felt that was not correct.\" "
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