The How and The Why: Resources, References & Glossary

Compiled by Jessica Dart, CoHo Artistic Fellow & Dramaturg

Amenorrhea (uh-men-uh-ree-uh)
The absence of menstruation.

fertilityspermlifeCervix as a Defense Against Pathogens
Profet’s description of the defense system of the female reproductive tract (see Menstruation as a Defense… below) includes a number of other components such as vaginal cornification, mucous plugs in the cervix, and non-menstrual bleeding in the uterus, any or all of which could be solutions to the problem of sperm-borne pathogens. The first change seen in the cervix of a pregnant woman is thickening as the cervix begins producing more glandular cells. These cells exude mucus, forming the mucus plug that will keep the uterus securely sealed during the pregnancy, thereby protecting the fetus from infection. Postmenopausal women continue to produce cervical mucous to protect against pathogens. Cervical stenosis (or the closing off of the cervix) may also occur. 

Dobzhansky Prize  (dob-zhahn-skee)
Awarded annually by the Society for the Study of Evolution to recognize the accomplishments and future promise of an outstanding young evolutionary biologist. The prize was established in memory of Professor Theodosius Dobzhansky by his friends and colleagues, and reflects his lifelong commitment to fostering the research careers of young scientists. Dobzhansky, a Russian geneticist who moved to the United States, provided laboratory evidence for natural selection and variation where previously there had been only field observation. His work with Drosophila (fruit flies) provided new evidence that supported Darwin’s theory that natural selection, acting on genetic variation in populations, is a driving force in evolution. (first mention on page 6)

A branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge.

Ernst Mayr (may-er)
Ernst Mayr helped define the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, proposing the “Biological Species Concept.” In particular, his work on species and speciation helped scientists understand the progress and mechanisms of evolution from one species to another, and the importance of the species unit as “the keystone of evolution.” 

millayEdna St. Vincent Millay
Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet, popular in the post-WWI Jazz Age. Poems referenced in the script:
First Fig (page 9)
I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed (page 55)
Second Fig (page 104)

Grandmother Hypothesis
A theory to explain the existence of menopause in human life history by identifying the adaptive value of extended kin networking (ie, females evolved to outlive their value as fertile beings so they could help raise younger, stronger generations). Referenced throughout the script as Zelda’s career-making hypothesis (see Zelda’s Character Influences below). More in-depth reading is available here:
The Evolutionary Importance of Grandmothers
Why Killer Whales Go Through Menopause But Elephants Don’t
The Grandmother Hypothesis: Scientists Examine Postmenopausal Women’s Role In Evolution

nw_hadza-women-children_tzThe Hazda
The Hadza (or Hadzabe) are a culturally, linguistically, and genetically distinct population of approximately 1000-1500 individuals, living around Lake Eyasi in northern Tanzania. They are the only population in east Africa that continues to rely extensively on hunting and gathering for their subsistence. They speak Hadzane, a click-language that is considered a language isolate because it has no relation to any other. Genetic studies confirm that the distinctiveness of the Hadza population stretches back thousands of years. 

Henry Mortimer
This is not a real person, though the name sounds very professor-y. Rachel calls him the “father of hormone replacement therapy,” a title that actually belongs to Jonathan V. Wright and John R. Lee. The Nascence of Senescence does not seem to be a real published work, though there are published works related to this subject.

Hormone Replacement Therapy
In the early 1940s, the FDA approved estrogen replacement for the treatment of menopause at its symptoms. HRT has grown into a multi-million dollar industry, but there is much debate today about whether it is truly helpful or necessary.  Dr. Jonathan V. Wright and Dr. John R. Lee were pioneers in the realm of bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, which are often assumed to be a safer alternative to taking estrogen and progestin. 


Macrophage (mak-ruh-feyj)
A large white blood cell, occurring principally in connective tissue and in the bloodstream, that ingests foreign particles and infectious microorganisms by phagocytosis. At left, macrophages at work ingesting e. Coli. 


Max Gluckman
Dr. Gluckman was a social anthropologist of South African and British descent. He founded the Manchester School of Anthropology, centered around structural-functional theories. 

sperm and eggMenstruation as a Defense Against the Toxicity of Sperm
In 1993, biologist Margie Profet (see Rachel’s Character Influences below) published a controversial thesis: Menstruation functions as a defense against pathogens transported by sperm. Profet hypothesises that as mammals fertilise internally, the females of all (or nearly all) mammalian species will show evidence of menstruation, whether overtly or covertly, because menstruation is necessary for clearing the female reproductive tract of sperm-borne pathogens. She predicts that if menstruation isn’t universal in mammals, then the presence of menstruation in any given species will vary relative to the breeding patterns of the species—the more frequent the rate of intercourse per fertilization cycle, the more likely it is that menstruation will be present. The pressures of natural selection, she argues, explain the presence of menstruation. She claims that traditional accounts fail to describe menstruation as functional because, prior to her work, no one had thought to perform an evolutionary analysis of menstruation. (Excerpt taken from Sharyn Clough’s What is menstruation for? On the projectibility of functional predicates in menstruation research.) This hypothesis is mentioned throughout the script as Rachel’s possible career-making discovery.

NOORB (National Organization of Research Biologists)
This is not a real organization. It seems to be based on several other professional organizations geared toward biologists of all kinds. 

ruthlkirschsteinRuth L. Kirschstein Award
Dr. Kirschstein, a pathologist and science administrator, was instrumental in the development of a safer alternative to Salk’s polio vaccine (the Sabin vaccine). She became the first woman director of a National Institutes of Health institute and championed research training and was a strong advocate for the inclusion of underrepresented individuals in the scientific workplace. A variety of research service awards named for Kirschstein are awarded through the NIH. 

The condition or process of deterioration with age. The state of being old or the process of becoming old.

yerkesprimatecenterYerkes Primate Center
The Yerkes National Primate Research Center conducts essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. We provide leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate, quality animal care.