Doodle-Worthy Women of August

In August 2012, two Google Doodles honoring women were posted — one for chef and culinary educator Julia Child, which appeared on the Google homepage around the globe (posted August 15th), and another for pianist and songwriter Consuelo Velázquez shown in Mexico (posted August 21st). (UPDATE: Not long after I posted this entry, Google posted a Doodle honoring Maria Montessori.)

As in every month, there were plenty of amazing Doodle-Worthy Women born in the month of August, and I had a very difficult time whittling this down to a short list. Here are this month’s picks:

Meena Kumari, born August 1, 1932, was an Indian poet and an actress in Hindi movies, taking starring roles in almost a hundred films over a three-decade career. Kumari is known as one of the most famous, prolific, and accomplished stars of the Hindi film industry. She made her first appearance in film when she was just 7 years old, but rose to prominence in her 20s. She was the nominee and winner of many Filmfare Best Actress and Bengal Film Journalist Association awards.

Henrietta Lacks was born August 1, 1920, but in some sense she still lives on — through a cell line, used for medical research to this day, known as HeLa. Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951, and during her treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, tissue samples were taken from her body without her consent.

Henrietta Lacks, photographed circa 1945.

Henrietta Lacks, photographed circa 1945.

For reasons that are still not clear, Henrietta’s cells could be cultured and grown indefinitely (compared to other cell cultures that only multiplied and survived for a few days). The cells descended from her original tissue sample make up what is known as an “immortal” cell line. Lacks’ cancer metastasized and she passed away at 31 years old, but her remarkable cell line was used, and continues to be used, in many biomedical research projects, from investigations into AIDS and cancer to the development of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine. You can learn more about Lacks, her family, her cell line, and the ethical, racial, and scientific implications of the research done using her body in a recent acclaimed book by Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Paola Massarenghi, born August 5th, 1565, was an Italian vocal composer. Only one of her works has survived to today, and little is known about her. It is presumed that she came from a wealthy family and that, given the time in which she lived, she was unable to continue publishing her work after she was married. When I’m researching these posts, I’m always especially thrilled and impressed to find someone to write about who was born before 1700!

Prateep Ungsongtham Hata, born August 9, 1952, is a Thai children’s rights activist, educator, and politician who works primarily with children living in Thailand’s slums. She is the founder and leader of the Duang Prateep Foundation and the Foundation for Slum Child Care, which provide support and access to education for impoverished children in Thailand.

Prateep Ungsongtham Hata.

Prateep Ungsongtham Hata.

Prateep has been awarded the John D. Rockefeller Youth Award for Outstanding Contribution to Mankind and the World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child, and currently serves in Thailand’s Senate.

Margaret Murie, born August 18, 1902, was an American environmental conservationist. She worked as a researcher, alongside her husband Olaus Murie, in Alaska, and as an advocate for protecting the area that is now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It is this work that earned her the nickname “Grandmother of the Conservation Movement.” Murie has been honored with the Audobon Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Margaret Murie, photographed in 1953 by Edith English of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


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