Green, erect, and cross-armed in a wide-brimmed feather hat, feminist Helene Stocker stands out at the forefront of a motley crew of primary colors in today’s Google Doodle, just as she did in the 20th feminist movement. In celebration of what would be the German activist’s 148th birthday, Google adorns its search engine with a snapshot of her leading the powerful common front she envisioned.
Stocker was a pioneer in feminism. Born in 1869 in Germany and raised in a traditional household, she moved to Berlin for her education and became one of the first women to earn her doctorate from the University of Bern. Literate, progressive, and prescient, Stocker sought a future for women free to pursue love and intellect in equal measure. “The modern woman does not as yet belong in this century,” Stocker penned in her most famous 1893 essay, The Modern Woman. “She is someone for whom there is still no name – nor man or place in society – for she belongs in all her being to the future.”
Stocker later co-founded The League for the Protection of Mothers and Sexual Reform in 1905, where she served as the magazine’s editor. In 1909, she successfully halted parliament’s criminalization of homosexuality. Underscoring all of her activism was her philosophy known as the New Ethic, which championed rights for illegitimate children, the legalization of abortion, and sexual education.
When the Nazis rose to power at the onset of World War II, Stocker fled, first to Switzerland and England, but ultimately landing on the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Japan in 1942. She ended up in the United States, where she would die of cancer one year later in New York City.