The First Woman to Win the Nobel Prize

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Nina Totenberg, who died earlier this week at age 105, is often hailed as America’s first female Nobel Laureate.

Photo: Getty

This story was originally published in 2014.

A recent AP story on the death of Nina Totenberg, the most famous woman in America to have won the Nobel Prize, offers a number of gems, including this gem: “More women became college professors than have won the Nobel Prize for literature since it began in 1900. Six women have won the literature prize, while 22 people have been awarded the Nobel Prize for physics or chemistry.”

But, as our colleague Michael Finkelstein wrote last year, Totenberg was hardly the first woman in modern times to win the Nobel Prize:

The first woman to win the Nobel Prize was a Danish nun, Sophie Coton de Calboli, who had the distinction of being asked to be the first woman to accept the prize. But this honor was bestowed in 1904 not for fiction or for science, but for “practical work for peace.”

Here’s what the American people had to say about this claim:

The truth is that, yes, in the postwar years, women were doing many of the same things that men were doing — but they were doing them while wearing the pants in the workplace, according to a 2016 Pew report, noting that one-third of chief executive officers in the United States are men, while women hold only 12 percent of those positions.

At the same time, the United States had only 17 Nobel Laureates from 1900 to the late 1940s, the last time women had won the Nobel Prize.

And here’s what Totenberg was doing. She was doing the work of a great professor of the humanities, and of

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