If 3 is a pattern, and 4 is a trend, then I continue to be impressed with the recent commitment of Google Doodles to broadening gender representation and diversity in their series of special logos. Today’s Doodle honors concert pianist and composer Clara Schumann, born on September 13th in 1819.
Schumann is the 4th woman honored with a Google Doodle in the United States this year (all between July 24 and today), so in this country and this year, women make up about 20% of the Doodle honorees. That’s the largest portion of the total that women have ever held in any year; additionally, this ties 2012 with 2011 for the year in which the most Doodles honored women (4 women were honored in 2011, and 24 men, so women made up only 14% in that year). Only time will tell whether Doodles will keep up the good work and improve these statistics even more.
Clara Schumann was a distinguished and well-known concert pianist during her lifetime, though her talent and body of work as a composer was recognized only later. She was a childhood prodigy, traveling Europe and performing throughout her home country of Germany before she was even a teenager. Schumann is also known for her early decision to perform concert pieces entirely from memory, starting when she was just 13 years old, which became the trend and standard in her industry. When she was 21 years old, she married the composer Robert Schumann; Clara took advantage of her reputation and influence to become a champion of Robert’s work as well as that of Johannes Brahms.
She was a prolific composer, and the publication dates of her works span from the 1830s to the 1890s. As a widely known performer, Schumann was also able to promote the careers of many other composers through her piano interpretations of the work of Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert. Clara also supported her family through her concerts (her husband Robert composed but did not perform); it was unusual enough for a woman in Schumann’s time to perform publicly, much less to make a living through a profession.
I’ll admit, I’m not sure I’m completely on board with the content of the Doodle itself. Clara and Robert Schumann had 8 children together, and apparently the figures shown in this Doodle are meant to represent them. I’m not able to think of another Doodle that showed the honoree (typically a man) with his children or family. In every other case I can think of, the Doodle has been designed to highlight the profession and achievements of the selected individuals, not their personal lives. Reading about the depth and breadth of Clara Schumann’s talent, I find the choices made in designing the Doodle to be puzzling, at best, and potentially disappointing.