At long last — Google Doodles have honored Amelia Earhart! Her Doodle appeared just after midnight, making her the first woman honored in the U.S. this year, the 8th woman ever honored in the U.S., and only the 37th woman honored in the global history of Google Doodles. How fitting that Amelia’s long-awaited Doodle appears just after we’ve lost another pioneering woman who took to the skies, Sally Ride.
I’m excited and thrilled that the hundreds of millions of Google searches performed today will feature the Doodle made in honor of Earhart, but still very disappointed at the general lack of gender diversity in the Doodles. This one day hasn’t changed the overall picture very much. Overall, 80 Doodles have been shown in the U.S. since 2008, with a nice round 10% of them honoring women — and that’s nothing to brag about. Taking 2012 in isolation, the United States Google Doodles have honored 17 men and just this 1 woman, for an inadequate rate hovering around 6% (as Sabrina Stierwalt pointed out during the Midpoint Series, I would be hard-pressed to name 18 creators and innovators who changed the world and only come up with one woman to include in the list). Internationally, the numbers are less bleak: 299 Doodles, including 37 women, since 2008, or just 12%, and only about 10% in 2012 (72 Doodles with 7 female honorees). I think it’s very important to view this occasion within this full context, and to acknowledge Google for what they’re doing while still holding them accountable to the choices they have made and the skewed view of creativity and innovation that they have presented. I continue to challenge Google Doodles to do better.
As for Earhart — I’m thrilled! She’s long been on the list of women that I thought deserved a Google, and I had absolutely no idea why she hadn’t “made” it yet.
Today marks the 115th anniversary of her birth, and though she lived to be only 39 (depending on whether she survived after her well-known disappearance), she accomplished a great deal in her short life. She was the first female pilot to fly across the Atlantic alone, and when she disappeared in 1937 she was attempting to become the first female pilot to circumnavigate the globe. Along the way, she also set altitude and speed records, and was the first person to cross the Atlantic by plane twice.
Earhart was also a passionate advocate for women as pilots and in other fields, working with aviation organizations to establish separate women’s records, allying herself with organizations for female pilots, joining the faculty of Purdue’s Department of Aeronautics to serve as a technical advisor and mentor to pre-professional women, and supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. She is an excellent and beloved role model, especially for girls and women, and a fantastic addition to the Google Doodles.
In July of 1937, Earhart disappeared along with her navigator Fred Noonan during her attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate the globe via plane. Earhart has been in the news a lot lately, with the recent and ongoing TIGHAR searches to investigate an island thought to be a likely crash site for Earhart and Noonan. Perhaps someday soon we’ll have a clearer idea of how her final flight, and her life, ended, but her legacy will live on.