Today, Google has posted a new Doodle honoring Nicolas Steno, a scientist working in the 1600s who is known today as the “father of modern geology” for his critical contributions to the science that we take for granted today, like his work in understanding stratigraphy and geological layers.
When I started this blog, it was with the hope that I might get the attention of someone at Google and that they might look seriously at the methods they use to select their Google Doodle honorees and think, critically, about the cultural reasons they may have for making the selections they do. But the title of the blog says that this work is about more than just speaking up to Google — it’s about speaking up for the women whose contributions aren’t always as highly valued or prized as they ought to be.
In response, then, to Google’s latest doodle (the second U.S. Doodle of 2012 honoring a specific individual, and so far both are men), I have put together my own post to celebrate an innovator — also born, as is the Google Doodle tradition, on today’s date. And as the first of this series, I thought it would be fitting to honor a woman who dedicated her life to trying to help people see all the contributions of smart, wonderful women: Alice Stokes Paul.
Alice Stokes Paul, who lived from 1885 to 1977, was an American suffragist and activist known for her work in the women’s suffrage movement of the early 1900s. After she completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, Alice Stokes Paul worked in Washington, D.C. as the congressional committee chairwoman for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, lobbying for what would eventually become the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, securing the right to vote for American women. In 1916, Paul left NAWSA to form the National Woman’s Party and continued to focus her political efforts on federal-level suffrage legislation. Alice Stokes Paul was also the original author of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which has to this day never been ratified (though it passed both houses of Congress in 1972) but has continued to play an important role in American feminist legislative action.
Based on her biography, we can tell that Alice Stokes Paul was both highly intelligent and highly curious about the world around her, with her interests spanning the laws of nature and the laws of humankind. The Alice Paul Institute notes the six academic degrees that Alice Stokes Paul earned, including both a PhD and a Doctorate in Civil Laws: a B.A. in biology from Swarthmore (1905), M.A. in sociology from University of Pennsylvania (1907), PhD in economics from University of Pennsylvania (1912), LL.B. from Washington College of Law (1922), LL.M. from American University (1927) and D.C.L. from American University (1928).
For a long time in this country, and not so very long ago, women weren’t even permitted the simple act of voting for their own representation in government. Alice Stokes Paul dedicated her life to changing that. What’s more innovative than changing the way a country looks at fully half of its citizens?