In the first episode of our fifth podcast season, you’ll hear the Berlin-based British-Ghanaian author and political activist Sharon Dodua Otoo talking about her favourite woman who ever lived: Nana Yaa Asantewaa. This Asante queen led the 1900 war against British colonialism in present-day Ghana. When the British governor demanded the kingdom’s emblem of power, the Golden Stool, Nana Yaa Asantewaa encouraged the Asante government to fight back through a powerful speech, and was chosen to head an army of 5000 at the age of sixty.
Sharon gives us all the context of who, what, where and when – and tells us how important Nana Yaa Asantewaa is as a role model for her and many others. DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins Susan Stone to introduce this fascinating talk.
We’re back! We’ve got new ladies to tell you about! And we’re doing it outdoors!
We’re tentatively extending a toe into the live-event waters, since it seems safe to us under Berlin’s restrictions. So come along and enjoy some fresh air and edifying entertainment.
Join our guest presenters, the awesome writers SHARON DODUA OTOO and NADIRE BISKIN, along with old stalwart KATY DERBYSHIRE, to learn about three fascinating females who did their own thing. All held together by our prodigious podcast producer SUSAN STONE. There’ll be a royal rebel against colonialist rule, a woman who rethought the binary and the borderland, and a lady who was seriously into bees. We’ll be rocking the ACUD courtyard as the sun goes down, celebrating lives lived to great effect.
Presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €8 or €5 reduced entry. Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 8 pm – come on time to get a good seat!
We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite. 3G entry only – geimpft, genesen, getestet. In the event of rain, we’ll move indoors to the ACUD Studio, so please bring a mask to use when you’re not at your seat.
YAA ASANTEWAA led the 1900 Ashanti war against British colonialism in present-day Ghana. Born in 1840, she was a skilled farmer and mother, before ascending matrilineally to the title of Queen Mother in the 1880s. That made her a key advisor and king-maker. When the British governor demanded the kingdom’s emblem of power, the Golden Stool, she encouraged the Ashanti government to fight back through a powerful speech, and was chosen to head an army of 5000 at the age of sixty. Though she was captured and died in exile, and the war was lost, her mortal remains were returned home for a royal burial. She lives on in many imaginations today, especially in Ghana.
GLORIA ANZALDÚA was an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. Born in the Mexico-Texas border region, she thought deeply about marginalization and the in-between. She began her working life as a schoolteacher and went on to live from her writing and academic work. Her ideas often challenged binary notions – in language, identity, sexuality – and the status quo of the movements she was part of. She spoke of herself as a “Chicana, tejana, working-class, dyke-feminist poet, writer and theorist”. Her collection of figurines, masks, rattles, candles, and other ephemera used as altar objects is held at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
EVA CRANE was a British expert on bees and beekeeping. Her education took her from a southeast London grammar school to a PhD in nuclear physics, which she taught at Sheffield University. Having been given a beehive as a wedding present in 1942, she quickly shifted her attention from atoms to apiculture. She founded the Bee Research Association and edited both the Journal of Apicultural Research and Bee World, while travelling to sixty countries to investigate local bees and the long history of human honey cultivation. To the delight of many translators, she was also general editor of ten multilingual dictionaries of beekeeping terms.
In this episode of the podcast, DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire introduces us to daring German writer Irmgard Keun. As an ingenue, Irmgard’s writing debut was much more consequent than her acting debut, and she garnered praise and a film adaptation. Her books explored women’s lives in Weimar-era Berlin with a humor all her own, which of course meant the Nazis banned them. There’s dark wit, wild parties in the face of danger, and fabulous costume changes — oh, and an unreliable narrator. It’s a bit of Babylon Berlin meets Cabaret, perhaps.
Irmgard Keun is also one of the original Dead Ladies (along with Dorothy Parker) that sparked the creation of the Dead Ladies Show in the first place!
Our other DLS co-creator Florian Duijsens joins podcast producer and host Susan Stone for the introducing duties in our last episode of DLSP Season Four!
This episode presents a first: our presenter (our very own Susan Stone!) actually met the lady in question. Bebe Barron was a bohemian, composer, and electronic music pioneer. She and her husband Louis worked avant-garde art-makers like John Cage and Maya Deren, and hung out with Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Joseph Campbell, and more. The pair is credited with inventing the tape loop, and possibly the audio book. It’s certainly the case that they composed and created the first electronic music — or electro-acoustic — feature film soundtrack. Electronic music as we know it would not exist without Bebe, nor would the sounds we associate with outer space.
Episode 42 is all about the American writer and journalist Emily Hahn, also known as Mickey.
She qualified as a mining engineer, wrote greeting-card copy, travelled the world and authored 54 books and more than 200 articles and short stories. Aside from that, she led an unconventional private life and kept a number of different monkeys. Hear all about her from our co-founder Florian Duijsens, recorded at Berlin’s ACUD Studio in April 2019.
If you’d like to find out more, Florian recommends two biographies:
Ken Cuthbertson’s Nobody Said Not to Go and Taras Grescoe’s Shanghai Grand.
In this episode, Anneke Lubkowitz introduces us to the brilliant and strange 19th-century writer and poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. This Dead Lady was a Lady in the literal sense – she was born into nobility, and the life her family expected for her was far different from the one she led. Choosing the male occupation of poet, and the unladylike hobby of fossil collecting, nature devotee Annette could often be found wandering the muddy moors or writing away in a turret. Her ahead-of-her-time way with verse included timeless poems and a work of gothic fiction considered by some to be one of the first murder mysteries.
Via Zoom from the bright green rooms of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s former home Haus Ruschhaus, Anneke also reads some newly translated poems from Droste’s collections (thanks to the translators: Shane Anderson, Daniel Falb, Monika Rinck, and Annie Rutherford!).
The star of our 40th (!) episode is author, educator, and therapist Beryl Gilroy. Born in what was then British Guiana, she trained as a teacher before migrating to London in 1952 as part of the Windrush generation and worked all manner of jobs until becoming one of the very first Black head teachers in the UK. Her groundbreaking debut, Black Teacher (1976), documented her journey up to that point, and she’d keep publishing until her death in 2001. Telling her story is Berlin-based author Divya Ghelani.
Episode 39 introduces Gráinne Mhaol, also known as Grace O’Malley, the legendary Irish pirate queen.
Translator Laura Radosh presents the rollicking tale of this tremendous woman, who has been lauded as “a most famous femynyne sea captain,” and “the dark lady of Doona.” Gráinne Mhaol was head of the O’Malley dynasty in 16th-century Ireland, owning up to 1000 cattle and horses, leading men on land and sea, and allegedly wreaking cruel vengeance for the murder of a lover. When her sons and half-brother were captured by the English, she is said to have met with Queen Elizabeth I and negotiated their release in Latin.
If you fancy being told the story by a dude with an excellent mid-70s beard, this 4-minute RTÉ clip is television gold.
Speaking of books, we’ve made some lists for you! Order from bookshop.org in the US or the UK to contribute to independent bookstores, and a little bit to us too. Or if you spot something you like the look of, why not visit or contact your favourite local bricks-and-mortar bookshop to show them some love?
It wouldn’t be January 2021 if we didn’t recommend a couple of related sea shanties (sort of). There’s “Five Pint Mary” or a whole suite, Granuaile. “Grace O’Malley” hits the spot – or try some Irish pirate metal. Warning: three out of four of these videos feature cartoon depictions of a red-headed piratess.
In Episode 38, we hear the sweet, sweet music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, known as the godmother of rock’n’roll.
DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens brings us the tale of this legendary guitarist and gospel singer who had a profound influence on musicians like Little Richard, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin. She took to the stage at the age of four, and never really left it. Sister Rosetta Tharpe made the first gospel record to hit the charts, played with Cab Calloway at the Cotton Club, attracted 25,000 paying customers to her third wedding, got in trouble with gospel purists and recorded a live album in Paris in 1964.
To start off the episode, Susan and Katy toast to the end of a strange year with the Dead Ladies Show signature tipple, affordable German bubbly Rotkäppchen (Red Riding Hood) and give thanks for the support we’ve had, and that yet to come.
The presentation in this episode was recorded live with help from Brigitte Hamar at the Studiobühne der Universität Münster where we were invited by the Burg Hülshoff Center for Literature. Other talks from this event in German can be found in the Center’s Mediathek: https://www.burg-huelshoff.de/en/medien/mediathek/dead-ladies-show Thanks also to Fiona, Kati, Tobias, Feline and Jörg for inviting and assisting us. Here we are with our co-presenters Karosh Taha and Bernadette Hengst.
Our 37th podcast episode celebrates a legendary spy, writer, and fencer whose very existence caused such a public uproar that it caused a grumpy British judge to outlaw all betting on a person’s gender. Although her story has been told many, many times before, most versions either invent her life story entirely or do not honor her own identity. Though she wanted to be recognized as the woman she was, that didn’t mean she was happy with society’s expectations of what a woman could or should wear, look like, or be around the time of the French Revolution. Mary Wollstonecraft was a fan, ranking her among the likes of Sappho and the Empress of Russia, and we think you’ll enjoy her story too.
Dead Ladies Show co-founder Florian Duijsens joins podcast host/producer Susan Stone to discuss our first episode about a woman we would now probably call a trans woman. Note that she is best known in the literature and all around the internet as the Chevalier d’Eon, Chevalière d’Eon is probably the more grammatically correct title 🙂 We also discuss the Dead Ladies Show’s famous three rules, and talk about about another unruly rulebreaker, Anne Lister.