Doodle-Worthy Women of February

Historically, February has been a busy month both for Speaking Up and for actual Google Doodles honoring women. In years past, Google posted Doodles honoring Rosa Parks (though not on her birthday) and Anna Pavlova. Here at Speaking Up, we’ve highlighted at least 3 women with February birthdates: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Susan B. Anthony, and Augusta Savage. Also, this month in 2013, a worldwide Doodle honored Mary Leakey, while Sweden honored Elsa Beskow and Google users in Norway saw a tribute to Anne-Cath. Vestly.

Here are five other tremendous, history-making women, born in the month of February, who would be incredible candidates for future Doodles:

Elizabeth Blackwell, born February 3, 1821, has made history as the first female physician in the United States, and for promoting the cause of women in the medical profession. An intellectual and abolitionist who yearned for a life of independence, Blackwell found medicine to offer opportunities for economic freedom. Finding a medical school that would accept a female student proved difficult, though she eventually attended Geneva Medical College at what is now Hobart and William Smith Colleges. She graduated with her degree in 1849 and went on to open a medical practice in New York City, to found medical colleges in both the United States and England, and to serve as a mentor and visionary in women’s medical training and women’s reproductive health.

Portrait of Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D.

Portrait of Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D.

Isuzu Yamada, born February 5, 1917, was a Japanese star who appeared in her first film at the age of twelve and her last at the age of 70. Over the course of her career in films, on television, and on the stage, she worked with some of the most important Japanese directors and artists (including Akira Kurosawa), and received much critical acclaim for her work. As a young actress, Yamada became known for her portrayals of strong-willed women with agency, struggling against an oppressive system. Yamada received Japan’s highest film honors for actresses and a lifetime achievement honor, and was the recipient of Japan’s top cultural awards, the Order of Culture and the Person of Cultural Merit.

A portrait of Isuzu Yamada taken in 1937.

A portrait of Isuzu Yamada taken in 1937.

Irena Sendler, born February 15, 1910 was a member of the WWII Polish Underground who, along with her team, helped approximately 2,500 Jewish children escape from the Warsaw Ghetto. Her job prior to the War gave her a false reason to enter the Ghetto — to prevent the spread of typhus — and during these visits she would work with others to smuggle small children and infants out. Sendler was caught by the Nazis in 1943 and received a death sentence, but a bribe to her guards allowed her to escape and go into hiding. Though her original goal had been to reunite the children with their families after the war, and detailed records were maintained for this purpose, almost none of the children had parents who survived the Holocaust. For her work, Sendler has been remembered with many honors, including Poland’s highest civilian honor, Israel’s designation of Righteous Among the Nations, and the Audrey Hepburn humanitarian Award. She was nominated on multiple occasions for the Nobel Peace Prize, but never won before she passed away in 2008 at the age of 98.

Irena Sendler, circa 1942.

Irena Sendler, circa 1942.

Elizabeth Holloway Marston, born February 20, 1893, was a psychologist and co-creator of the Wonder Woman character. She earned a B.A. and a law degree, along with a master’s degree in psychology at Radcliffe, and worked in research, lecturing, editing, and as an executive assistant — putting her firmly in the category of “career woman” at a time when that was very controversial. These experiences and her fundamental belief in the worth and value of women’s contributions led her to suggest the creation of a female superhero, who became the Wonder Woman we know and love today.

Marian Anderson, born February 27, 1897, was a contralto singer who performed in a range of styles, from opera to traditional spirituals, and around the world in famous venues. While her talent and fame thrust her into the limelight, she was refused access to certain venues as an African-American performer, and access to hotels and restaurants also served as barriers to a career as a traveling singer. Anderson thus also became a prominent figure in the struggle for black artists to gain full access and recognition as performers. Anderson eventually became the first black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. She also served as a “goodwill ambassador” for the United States and worked with the United Nations. Anderson is a recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Kennedy Center Honors, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Medal of Arts.

Marian Anderson, circa 1940, photographed by Carl Van Vechten.

Marian Anderson, circa 1940, photographed by Carl Van Vechten.


2 thoughts on “Doodle-Worthy Women of February

  1. Pingback: March 4th: Miriam Makeba! | Speaking Up

  2. Pingback: February 27th: John Steinbeck & Marian Anderson | Speaking Up

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