Doodle-Worthy Women of December

We’ve come to the end of Speaking Up’s first full year, and to the end of the month of December. This month, the U.S. Doodles team honored Ada Lovelace on December 10th – the only woman they recognized by Google this month in any country. In years past, Doodles have also honored Jane Austen (posted on her birthday, December 16th, in 2010), Edith Piaf (posted on December 19th, 2010), and Umm Kulthum (who has an uncertain birthday of either May 4th or December 30th; the Doodle was posted in May 2010). Here at Speaking Up, guest blogger Karen Masters recently wrote about Mary Somerville, whose birthday is the 26th of December.

To wrap up the month, here are a few more Doodle-Worthy women whose birthdays land in December:

— Hungary’s Ilona Fehér, born on December 1, 1901, was a world-renowned violinist and violin teacher. Fehér performed on stages throughout Europe, though her career was interrupted by World War II. During this time, she and her daughter were interned in a concentration camp, from which they escaped after two years. After the war, Fehér relocated to Israel and became a teacher responsible for the education of some of the world’s finest violinists.

Photograph of Ilona Feher.

Photograph of Ilona Feher.

Anna Komnene, born December 1, way back in 1083, was a Greek princess — but she accomplished much more than that title. Throughout her life, she excelled in fields ranging from the practical to the scholarly. She was a scholar and historian (the author of a history of her own father’s reign in Greece), on top of being a physician and a hospital/orphanage administrator. There, Komnene taught medicine while overseeing 10,000 patients and orphans in the Constantinople facility. Her story comes to an unhappy end — she was exiled after attempting to oust her brother as the heir to the empire — but is fascinating overall.

— Greek opera star Maria Callas was born December 2, 1923; why she hasn’t yet been honored with a Doodle is beyond me! Callas is known for an otherworldly combination of technique, raw vocal talent, and dramatic performance. As a young teenager, Callas received vocal training in Athens which revealed, after just a few months, that her voice could compete in the international opera scene. This was the start of a career that took her all over the world and that made Callas the stuff of operatic legend. She has been awarded with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and has been named the greatest soprano of all time by the BBC.

Maria Callas receiving applause following a performance of La Sonnambula in 1957.

Maria Callas receiving applause following a performance of La Sonnambula in 1957. Full disclosure: I absolutely love this photograph.

Willa Cather, born December 7, 1873, was an American author known for her portrayals of the western frontier and the life of those people who settled and explored the American plains. She’s best known for O Pioneers!and My Ántonia, though she was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours. Cather has been elected to the Nebraska Hall of Fame and with a stamp produced by the United States Postal Service.

— Anthropologist Margaret Mead, born December 16, 1901, studied the intersection of sex, gender, and culture in South Pacific and Southeastern Asian cultures. Mead’s resumé is long and varied: executive secretary of the National Research Council’s Committee on Food Habits, curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, adjunct professor at Columbia University, professor and chair at Fordham University, President of the American Anthropological Society, and president and board of directors member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For her work as a cultural anthropologist, Mead was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (posthumously).

Madam C.J. Walker, born December 23, 1867, was an entrepreneur and philanthropist, and the first self-made female millionaire in the United States. At the age of 20, Walker (then Sarah Breedlove) was a widow with a two-year-old daughter; not long after, she was selling her own formulation of sulfur-based shampoos and ointments. The company she founded was among the largest black-owned manufacturing companies in the world, and expanded to include thousands of salespeople along with beauty schools in several states.

Madame C.J. Walker.

Madame C.J. Walker.

While this brought her great financial success, Walker also gave back and provided opportunities for other women to see the success she had earned, She dedicated time and resources to training other African-American women in business and marketing, and also threw her support behind the NAACP and number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She has been honored through inclusion in the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the National Direct Sales Hall of Fame, and with a commemorative stamp by the United States Postal Service. After her death, Walker passed on control of the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company to her only daughter, Lelia.


5 thoughts on “Doodle-Worthy Women of December

  1. Fun fact: The AMNH hosts the Mead Film Festival every year to recognize M. Mead work :-). This year i watched a film about human towers (castelliers) in India, Chile and Catalunya

    • Excellent! This had not been posted yet when this was written (the Doodle honors her birthday in 2013, while I wrote this post in 2012) but I’m so glad they’ve finally gotten around to her!

  2. Pingback: December 2nd: Maria Callas! | Speaking Up

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