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Author says women being purged from history

April 09, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

Many people grew up learning of the Crick and Watson DNA model, named for two of the three men who won a Nobel Prize for "discovering" the double helix model.

So it's probably a surprise to many to learn that actually it was a woman who first discovered the double helix model, Rosalind Franklin.

That story and others about "How to Make Women Disappear: A Users Manual" were the subject of Thursday night's Kreykenbohm Lecture at Hagerstown Community College's Kepler Theater.

The speaker, John Fuegi, is an award winning author and filmmaker. He teaches comparative literature, film, women's studies, theater and English at the University of Maryland at College Park.

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"It seems to me very odd to not study half of the human race," Fuegi said in an interview following his lecture.

Fuegi said he became interested in how women didn't get credit for their works when he began researching in the 1960s what he thought were the works of Bertolt Brecht.

Brecht, who is given credit for "The Threepenny Opera," couldn't have written it because he didn't have command of 18th century English, Fuegi said.

Fuegi said he doesn't believe there is any doubt Elisabeth Hauptmann wrote 80 percent of the libretto and half of the songs.

Fuegi's book on Brecht, "Brecht & Co.: Sex, Politics and the making of the Modern Drama," was named Notable Book of the Year in 1995 by The New York Times, according to an HCC statement.

Fuegi said he was shocked when he learned that three women were responsible for much of Brecht's work.

He was even more shocked by the inability of the international Brecht community to recognize this.

Among the other women Fuegi said weren't recognized for their contributions was Lise Meitner.

Fritz Strassmann and Otto Hahn were awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of splitting the atom.

Meitner had worked on the project with them before leaving for Stockholm. Later the two men sent their results to Meitner because they couldn't figure out what they meant.

Meitner and her nephew, Otto Robert Frisch, figured out it was the splitting of an atom.

Like Franklin, Meitner was never awarded the Nobel Prize, Fuegi said.

Franklin died before the Nobel was awarded to Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins, Fuegi said. The rules committee stated it couldn't recognize someone who is dead, he said.

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