Doodle-Worthy Women of November, & Happy Birthday to Joan Ganz Cooney!

I have something special for my November Doodle-worthy women post: the opportunity to feature Joan Ganz Cooney, the woman whose work inspired me to write this blog, on her birthday. But first, this month’s wrap-up!

In November 2012, no women were honored with Doodles anywhere in the world — though this time last year, the Australian Doodle honored Oodgeroo Noonuccal. Noonuccal was an Aboriginal Australian poet, artist, and advocacy for Aboriginal rights, and was one of the Doodle-worthy women on my list for this month, before I realized that she had already been included.

Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s Google Doodle, posted in Australia on November 3, 2011.

On to some other wonderful, Doodle-worthy women born in the month of November:

Hedy Lamarr, born November 9, 1913, is known both as a major movie star and as an inventor. She’s responsible for the development of a communication device which used frequency hopping, the precursor for today’s wireless technologies.

Hedy Lamarr, photographed for a publicity shot in 1938.

Dorothy Dandridge, born November 9, 1922, was a successful performer in the 1950s and 1960s, known for both acting and singing. In 1954, Dandridge became the first African-American performer of either gender to be nominated for the Academy Award for performance in a leading role.

Dorothy Dandridge appearing in a 1958 film.

Indira Gandhi, born November 19th, 1917, was India’s third prime minister and the world’s second-ever female head of government (a distinct role from head of state). Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was a leader in India’s path to independence, and Indira worked closely with him during his service as the new nation’s first Prime Minister. Gandhi served in India’s upper Parliamentary house and as a cabinet member before becoming Prime Minister in 1966.

Indira Gandhi.

Mary Edwards Walker, born November 26, 1832, was the only woman to have ever received the U.S. Medal of Honor. She became a doctor after graduating from Syracuse Medical College in 1855, though she had difficulty establishing a practice because of patient bias against female physicians. Walker voluntarily joined the Union Army during the Civil War, though for part of this time she was employed as a nurse rather than a doctor. By 1863, she was hired as the U.S. Army’s first ever female surgeon, and during this time she became a prisoner of the Confederate Army. After her service, she was awarded the Medal of Honor.

— Last, but certainly not least, I want to give special recognition to Joan Ganz Cooney, who was born on this day (November 30th) in 1929. She shares her birthday with Mark Twain, who was honored with a global Doodle this time last year. For a couple of years, at that time, my friends and I had commented on the obvious gender disparity in the Doodles. Whenever a new one was posted, I’d send an email to a small group, with some information on women who could have been honored instead. While doing the research for that email, I ran into the straw that broke the camel’s back. Mark Twain is certainly no slouch, though I think he gets his fair share of recognition. But Joan Ganz Cooney was an extraordinary woman — and one of whom I’d never heard. After learning more about her, I was all charged up, and so Speaking Up was born.

Joan Ganz Cooney with some of Sesame Street’s resident Muppets.

Cooney is one of the co-founders and the first creative director of the Children’s Television Workshop. She has spent her life dedicated to using media to serve as early educational intervention for underserved children, and is also responsible for Jim Henson’s close invovlement with CTW. She’s also the creator of well-known CTW children’s shows, including Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, and my personal favorite, Square One — I mean, math on TV? What’s not to love? So not only is she responsible for inspiring me to start this blog, she was a really important figure in my childhood, without me ever realizing. That’s exactly the kind of creation and innovation that the Doodles are all about. For her incredible work in educational television for children, Cooney has been honored with the Urban League’s Frederick Douglass Award, the National Endowment for the Arts Friends of Education Award, a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many others.

Happy birthday, Joan Ganz Cooney!


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