Categories: Women In Tech

Today’s Doodle: Zofia Stryjeńska, she Faked being a Man to make it in a Man’s World

Googled something today? Of course, you did! It is, after all, the gatekeeper of the internet; for most of us. It is our first landing ground when we are going on the world wide web. It might not be google.com, thanks to the nifty Omni-purpose address bar feature available in virtually all modern browsers, but if you did do some Googling today, you might have noticed the woman in today’s Doodle.

Zofia Stryjeńska would have been 130 Years old today

Coco Chanel once said: “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it’s up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.”

Zofia Stryjeńska making it to today’s Google’s Doodle is nothing short of a marvel. Especially when you remember that she passed away on February 28, 1976, yes, she might have lived in the past century. However, the unique challenges she faced as a woman trying to scale up are still relatable to millions of women living in this century.

A quick Google search into Stryjeńska life will reveal facts like she was an accomplished painter, illustrator, graphic designer, and stage designer. One of the outstanding art creatives to have ever come out of Poland.

On the flip side, she was also a woman trying to level up in her craft in a ‘man’s world’ (

James Brown’s song just popped into my head). Zofia Stryjeńska had to go through challenges that are still unique only to women. She had to balance between her work and raising kids. She went through various financial hurdles and had to pick herself up after two divorces. Perhaps issues that have become too common for today’s world working women. Often much of the blame for the failed relationship is attributed to the woman’s passion for pursuing her career instead of nurturing the domestic family unit.

Related: The Ten Most Influential Women in Tech who Changed the World

Born in 1891 in Kraków, Poland, Stryjeńska took to painting caricatures

of customers coming to her father’s glove shop while she was a child. She then attended a craft school, then proceeded to a teacher’s seminary, and in 1909 graduated out of Leonard Stroynowski’s private art school. Afterwhich, she joined Maria Niedzielsk fine art school for women to study painting and applied art, where she graduated with honors.

Faking to be a Man to make it in a Man’s World

She worked for notable magazines at the time, which include Voice of the People and Role. However, like many of her gender Stryjeńska quickly faced society-imposed glass ceilings in her career growth. She had to find innovative ways to break the glass. On October 1st, 1911, she got into the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. The competition was so tough that out of the around 200 applicants, just 40 were admitted. Stryjeńska knew her application was dead on arrival, even before reaching the panel vetting the candidates.

Stryjeńska applied to the academy under her brother’s name – Tadeusz Grzymala Lubański – and was admitted. She had to dress up like a boy; otherwise, she would not only not been kicked out but also would not have been admitted in the first place. At the time, the academy did not enlist women. After about a year of cutting her hair short and walking around the university pretending to be a man, the pressures of her lies caught up with her. She dropped out and returned to her hometown Kraków.

In Universe-shifting examples of strong women who went up against the ‘man’s world,’ Stryjeńska sits next to the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. Gwyneth Paltrow also had to disguise herself as a man to play a woman’s role in a play. A woman faking to be a man, in order to play the role of a woman in a play! How messed up were things back then?


In celebration of #InternationalWomensDay, here’s $25 Million Grant for Women/Girls Projects

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Innov8tiv is a dynamic Web source for technology news, resources and innovation, with a special focus on the entrepreneurial advances of Africans on the continent as well as in the Diaspora. This site seeks to not only inform consumers and companies about the latest in tech trends and ideologies, but to shed light on a phenomenon often ignored: the inventive, life-changing and creative engine that exists in Africa and among leaders of color around the world, including the UK, the Caribbean, Australia, and Asia. Send story ideas to info@innov8tiv.com

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