August 14, 2022

Women’s History Month: FDA Spotlights Food Safety Pioneer Imogene Gollinger

Imogene Gollinger was a high school science teacher before she became the first female to be hired as a field inspector for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1965. Her accomplishments as a food safety pioneer are being spotlighted by the FDA during Women’s History Month.

imogene-gollingerArriving for her first day of work wearing a hat and white gloves, Gollinger was handed some coveralls. Cut for man, they were deemed too revealing from the side and had to be altered, the sides sewn shut, before she could go out on the job, according to the agency.

Once on the job, Gollinger bought a shopping cart to help her carry the heavy equipment. Initially, her male coworkers made fun of her, but many of them eventually followed suit. In 2000, when she was asked about her early days with the agency, she recalled that travel posed one of the greatest challenges. It wasn’t common for women to travel alone then. Once, a hotel manager was reluctant to honor her reservation fearing that she was a “lady of the evening.” He agreed to let her stay after she showed him her badge.

Gollinger described her job at FDA the “biggest opportunity of my life.”  In addition to being the agency’s first female field inspector, she was also the first woman to receive specialized training in pharmacy inspections at Rhode Island University. She left the agency for a job in the private sector and spent the remainder of her career in the food and drug field.

(In the photo above, FDA Commissioner George Larrick swears in Imogene Gollinger as the FDA’s  the first female field investigator. )

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