Whenever I open up Google and there’s a new Google Doodle waiting for me, I’m always a little excited – clicking on it always takes me to a short little game to play, or a fun animation, or information on an awesome historical figure I’ve never even heard of.
And this week was no exception – Wednesday brought me this adorable Doodle, honoring Mary Leakey:
Mary Leakey was a British archaeologist and anthropologist who discovered the first fossilized skull of Proconsul, an extinct ape now believed to be an ancestor to humans, among a number of other really cool things.
As a kid, Leakey had an adventurous spirit. Her interest in archeology was sparked at a young age, when her family visited Les Eyzies where another archeologist was excavating a cave. When her family moved to France, she found a mentor in Abbe Lemozi, the village priest, who toured caves with Mary to view prehistoric paintings.
Leakey wasn’t the greatest student, interested only in archeology and drawing. She wanted to attend classes, but Oxford wouldn’t admit her – so she attended lectures at University College London and the London Museum. Mary applied to go on excavations, and her old teacher Mortimer Wheeler accepted her for her first dig. She met her husband, Louis Leakey, on the job, and the two passed on their passion for archeology to their son, Richard. She died in 1972, and would have been 100 years old this week.
Leakey’s success in archeology should be an inspiration to all little girls interested in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) – traditionally male-dominated fields. Her story is a reminder of how important it is to enforce Title IX, the federal law that requires girls and boys to be given equal opportunities in career and technical education programs as well as on the playing field. Closing the gap in these high-paying fields could help lower the wage gap, but girls still face stereotypes and institutional obstacles to entering them – a painful reminder that, after 40 years of Title IX, we still have a long way to go.