When Alice Wilson began her career with the Geological Survey of Canada in 1909, women could not take part in fieldwork in remote areas with their male colleagues. Instead, she was advised to focus on local fieldwork in the Ottawa Valley, which she did very successfully. Despite life-long struggles with ill health, Wilson mapped over 16,000 square kilometres on foot, by bicycle, and, eventually, by car.
The Survey published the results of her fieldwork in 1946, and Geology of the St. Lawrence Lowland, Ontario and Quebec was the first major geological publication about the area. Indeed, we owe our understanding of the geology and resources of the area to Wilson. In addition to a comprehensive discussion of the area's geology, she covered economic resources including building stone, sand, gravel, and drinking water.
Wilson was a person of many impressive firsts. She was the first woman geologist hired by the Geological Survey of Canada, the first Canadian woman to be admitted to the Geological Society of America, and the first female Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada - and these are but a few examples of the many areas where Wilson opened new doors for women scientists.