The Minerva Seal

The Minerva Seal

Maria Shriver, California’s Former First Lady, commissioned Susan Shelton to create this seal as part of her Minerva Awards project.  Named for the Roman Goddess of Wisdom, the Minerva Awards honor women who have dedicated their lives to furthering positive change in California.

In designing the seal, Shelton wanted to focus on Ms. Shriver’s concept of women as warriors in their everyday lives.  This concept redefines the warrior as a woman who nurtures, protects, and fights for the people and causes she holds dear.  In her endeavors, she embodies the qualities of courage, wisdom, and strength.


The image on the seal was inspired by a beautiful story about Athena, Minerva’s Greek counterpart.      The myth tells of a competition held amongst all the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus to determine who will be the Protector of the City of Athens.  The honor will be awarded to the God or Goddess who bestows the greatest gift to the city. As the competition narrows to the final contenders, Poseidon presents to the city, amidst a great clatter and an impressive parting of the earth, a salt spring and a full fleet of war ships. 

Following this show-stopping display, Athena calmly and confidently kneels to plant a dusty little shrub in the ground. Athena explains to the puzzled citizens that, with the oil from the fruit of this tree, they will light their lamps, flavor their foods, and beautify their bodies.  Further, their artisans will create beautiful vessels to hold the oil, thus facilitating trade that will bring them wealth and prosperity.

Realizing that the gift of the olive tree will enrich their lives for generations to come, the citizens proclaim Athena the winner, and name the city in her honor.