North Dakota’s oil industry currently employs more than 40,000 people. Williston, formerly a sleepy town in the northwestern part of the state, has rocketed on the scene as the sixth largest city in the 48th most populous state primarily because of the controversial oil and gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing technology or “fracking.” The recent ability to tap into the Bakken formation—a thin but wide shale layer that sits two miles along the Williston Basin—opened an opportunity for the town to take a seat at the head of the oil-drilling table. It’s now poised to be the biggest boomtown in the country, with a population estimated to soar from 10,000 to just fewer than 50,000 by 2025.

Fracking has brought in an influx of oil workers—many of them women—from across the country attracted to the high salaries and burgeoning housing market created to accommodate the surge in residents. The result is the town’s population has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. The city commission passed a record $250 million budget for 2015 on September 9th of this year, up from $53 million in 2012. Photographer Maud Delaflotte spent three weeks photographing women who were either from Williston or migrated there alone or with families to find the jobs. Her essay asks What if this newly discovered, magic answer is flawed? What if the new El Dorado is only a passing mirage?

All photos by Maud Delaflotte/Zoko