On March 9, Candace Jean Andersen tweeted out “Hey Twitter I’m on a mission.” Attached to her tweet was a photo of a large group of men at the International Conference on Biology of Whales in 1971. There is only one woman spotted in the crowd. The photo caption lists her as “not identified.” So, she turned to social media for help.
Within a few hours, tips were coming in. Andersen, who lives in Salt Lake City, began fielding the information and started to chase loose ends. Why was there only one woman there and how come she is the only one listed as “not identified?”
A Twitter user with ties to the Smithsonian Museum tried to help, as did another stranger who recognized one of the names put forth as a possible candidate.
Finally, there was a breakthrough. Two days after Andersen first tweeted out the group photo, Twitter user Dee Allen said her name was Sheila Jones, who later used her maiden name, Minor. At that time, her boss, Clyde Jones, brought her to the conference. Another user suggested she was a collections technician specializing in mammals. Andersen unfortunately could not confirm with Clyde, as he had died some years before. So the search for Sheila continued.
A researcher from the Smithsonian archives dug up a folder under the name of Sheila Minor and discovered receipts putting her at the 1971 conference. Other paperwork verified that she was not just support staff as some had described her, but a biological research technician in 1972 and 1973. She was a scientist in her own right, and worked 35 years for the government as a researcher and as an educator.
Andersen made the best discovery of all: the woman herself. The pair found each other on Facebook, and Andersen asked Minor for more details about her life’s work and learned that she had a lengthy career throughout several U.S. government agencies.