No Belles is a dramatic production about women scientists and the Nobel prize. Portal Theatre is a theater company based in Portland, OR, whose play “No Belles” focuses on the lives of women scientists who won Nobel Prizes and some who did not. It was performed at the Fall 2017 ACS meeting in Washington, DC, and the CA Section WCC have arranged for it to be shown in the San Francisco Bay Area to benefit and inspire young women STEM students, in particular, and be accessible to all students aspiring to become the scientists of tomorrow.
It all started with a t-shirt.
On the t-shirt were five women, all scientists, but only one (Marie Curie) that we were familiar with. Who were these women? Why didn’t we know their names? Two of the five were Nobel winners, the other three either did science that wasn’t in a Nobel category, or for whatever reason didn’t get the prize. And, we were curious.
The Portal Theater Company started researching these and other women in science, and they came upon a startling discovery. Out of the 597 individual Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, only 17 have been women. And beside Marie Curie (who actually won the Prize twice, in two different sciences), we didn’t know a single one of them. In our research, they began to uncover extraordinary stories about these women, and marveledat the advancements their discoveries have made, how the science they worked on has bettered humankind in many, many ways, and how some of their work has literally saved countless lives.
And, they thought: why don’t we tell their stories?
While it would take us pages to list all the men who have won Nobel Prizes, it won’t take us long to list the women. Here they are.
- In Physics: Marie Curie and Maria Goeppert Mayer
- In Chemistry: Marie Curie, Irene Joliot-Curie, Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, and Ada Yonath
- In Physiology or Medicine: Gerty Theresa Corie, Rosalyn Yalow, Barbara McClintock, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Gertrude Elion, Christiane Nusslein-Volhard, Linda Buck, Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, Carol Greider, Elizabeth Blackburn, May-Britt Moser, and Youyou Tu.
In No Belles, the focus in on three women (Rosalyn Yalow, Rita Levi-Montalcini, and Rosalind Franklin), while telling a number of the other women’s stories in short form.