Podcast #63: Djuna Barnes

In this episode, translator Laura Radosh introduces us to the fascinating and troubled writer Djuna Barnes. The journalist, novelist, and artist mixed with everyone from James Joyce to Peggy Guggenheim, and was at the center of Bohemian life in 1920s New York and Paris, though perhaps not quite as much as she would like. Best known (if at all) for her modernist novel Nightwood, Djuna once called herself ”the most famous unknown in the world.”

DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens joins producer/host Susan Stone to muse on Djuna and her circle of modernist Dead Ladies.

If you’d like to get advance tickets for our May show in Berlin they are here. DLS NYC tickets can be purchased here.

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast.

Show notes:

Read more: Podcast #63: Djuna Barnes
Barnes’s place on Patchin Place
Another portrait by sometime roommate Berenice Abbott
Young Djuna
Grandma Zadel
The note from Zadel Laura mentions
One of Djuna’s elegant drawings
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, who tragically picked Djuna to be her literary executor
Mary Pyne, the lover whom Djuna nursed until her death of tuberculosis in 1919
Djuna eyeing Mina Loy
The “fountain syringe” used the bottom-left nozzle
To Paris!
Djuna and the Baroness in happier times
Janet Flanner, who covered Paris for the New Yorker
Margaret Anderson & Jane Heap, editors of the Little Review
Natalie Barney, here with Romaine Brooks
Brooks’s typically severe self-portrait
You can see Natalie Barney’s Parisian home and garden with its Temple of Friendship in this documentary.
Silverpoint artist Thelma Wood, who inspired Djuna’s famous Nightwood (1936)
Greta Schiller’s Paris Was a Woman (1996) is well worth seeking out in full!
Peggy Guggenheim
Charles Henri Ford, buttoning up
Listen to Dylan Thomas reading Nightwood here.

You can hear Djuna reading from her autobiographical play in verse The Antiphon at the Paris Review, and check out our episodes on Berenice Abbott and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Want to suggest a Dead Lady for us? Drop us a line to info@deadladiesshow.com or tell us on social media. Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month.

Dead Ladies Show #34: Paula Fox, Doreen Massey & Sister Mary Ignatius

We’re thrilled to be back on stage in Berlin on Monday, May 29th! While we await the next round of funding, we’re financially on our own for 2023, so all three of our talks will be in English, which means your beloved co-hosts Florian Duijsens and Katy Derbyshire, plus long-time favorite Agata Lisiak. Learn all about three impressive women who overcame obstacles, pushed boundaries and gave the world lasting treasures. The aim of the show is to raise money for more podcasts, so we’ve adjusted the non-reduced price to €10, but reduced tickets still cost €4. Buy them at Eventbrite. Doors open 7.30 pm, show starts at 8 pm – come on time to get a good seat!

We have more limited space than usual, since were in the CLUB (not the Studio), so please book in advance. And if you’re looking for an opportunity to get dressed up, you know we always appreciate your favorite finery.


PAULA FOX wrote novels for children and adults, and two memoirs – always a good sign. Her childhood between the USA and Cuba might best be described as itinerant, although harsher adjectives may apply. She had three children, giving the first up for adoption at the age of 21. Her first main job was as a teacher for troubled children, but she began writing in her 40s. Her first novel came out in 1966, the children’s book Maurice’s Room, and the next year she published two more children’s books and one novel for adults. She continued apace, switching to memoir as she approached her 80s. In 2011 she was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Paula Fox died aged 93 in 2017.

DOREEN MASSEY was a Marxist social scientist and geographer from the UK. She worked mainly at the Centre for Environmental Studies think tank, and at British early-morning TV fans’ beloved Open University – teaching students who didn’t have access to a traditional university education – and also in Nicaragua, Venezuela and South Africa. That work focused on economic geography and the geography of gender, and she spoke eloquently about place or space as “a pincushion of a million stories”. Her list of publications vies in length with her honors and awards – including a pretty impressive total of six honorary degrees. Like many other utter stars, Doreen Massey declined an OBE. She died aged 72 in 2016.

SISTER MARY IGNATIUS was born in Jamaica as Mary Davies, and became a Sister of Mercy (not the 80s Gothic rock band) at the age of 17. With a short exception, she spent the rest of her life at the Alpha Boys’ School in Kingston, teaching football, cricket, boxing, table tennis and dominoes – but most importantly, music. A lover of jazz and blues, she inspired hundreds of “wayward boys” to become professional musicians, including future Skatalites Tommy McCook and Don Drummond, trombonist Rico Rodriguez and Leslie Thompson, the first black conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. Without Sister Mary Ignatius, who died at the age of 81 in 2003, we might never have had reggae.

Dead Ladies NYC 23

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…by which we mean, good news! we’re staying at the Red Room after all for our upcoming Dead Ladies Show NYC!

The Deets: Wednesday, May 24, 7–9pm at the Red Room at KGB Bar! (85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, Third Floor.)


NB: We are now charging a $10 cover to defray costs of the event—if this presents any issue, please contact us and we can absolutely work something out.

This is our twenty-third show in New York, can you even believe it?? (Neither can we!) Join your fearless hosts, Molly and Sheila, as we dive into the life stories of a Lebanese-Palestinian feminist poet whose voice, long silenced, is just now re-emerging; a Black American activist who spent her life fighting for racial justice after the brutal murder of her son; and a comedy legend who paved inroads for American women in entertainment. Presented, respectively, by a designer, a research professor, and a writer—oh my!

If you want to make sure you don’t miss the next NYC edition, sign up for the dedicated newsletter here. You can also follow the NYC edition on Instagram and Twitter!


MAY ZIADEH (1886–1941) was a Lebanese-Palestinian poet, writer, translator, and feminist who rose to prominence in the Nahda movement. She hosted a weekly literary salon in Cairo, and her work explored themes of love, identity, and the liberation of women. Yet May’s life is mostly remembered through tragedy and isolation: her dismissal by literary male contemporaries as an “intellectual ornament,” the deaths of her parents and Gibran Kahlil Gibran, and her forced admittance to a psychiatric institution. Today, May’s voice is finally, gradually gaining the resonance it deserves.

MAMIE TILL-MOBLEY (1921–2003) was a relentless Black American social activist and educator. She is best known as the mother of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old-boy who was brutally murdered by two white men in 1955 after being accused of an inappropriate encounter with a white woman. Till-Mobley, an excellent student in her youth, became a force of diligence and eloquence after Emmett’s murder, shedding a glaring light on racial violence in America and advancing the Civil Rights movement. She became a lifelong proponent of racial equity, both as an educator and an advocate for youth living in poverty.

AMRITA SHER-GIL (c. 1913–1941) was a queer, feminist, Hungarian-Indian artist, writer, and art critic who left a profound impact on Indian art. Part of the avant-garde, she was known to be incredibly charismatic and a non-conformist whose work reframed discussions on art and feminism, orientalism, and colonialism. She was able to create a significant body of work and make strides in hybridizing European technique, classical Indian aesthetics, and her own highly affective style before an untimely death from an unsafe abortion at the age of 28. 


Your presenters:

ROSANA ELKHATIB is a designer, researcher, and curator whose work focuses on the mutual constitution of bodies and spaces across political, social, and religious environs. She is a co-founding principal of feminist architecture collaborative (f-architecture) and currently teaches at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation.

ALYSSA WILSON is a research professor studying age-related brain diseases at Mount Sinai in New York City. She also sings in a cover band and has a pet rabbit who resembles a tiny hippo.

NAFISA FERDOUS is a feminist program manager and illustrator from Queens, NYC. She has lived for nearly a decade in Asia and East Africa working for human rights organizations. Now she tries to make low-ego art and comics at @__petni.

Podcast #62: Leonor Fini

Our story for this episode comes from our friends at the Dead Ladies Show NYC, which is organized and hosted by Molly O’Laughlin Kemper with Sheila Enright.  Photographer, professional eccentric, and guinea-pig lover JR Pepper (previously on the pod with Mae West) tells the tale of artist Leonor Fini, a glamorous, passionate iconoclast (and cat lover) with a brilliant creative mind who was fiercely independent — at a time when women were allowed to be muses, not painters.

Like her friend Leonora Carrington, Fini is often called a Surrealist, but she didn’t consider herself one of their group due to their misogynistic views, which included viewing women as either childlike muse or femme fatale. Her paintings utilized the female gaze, and often featured catlike and other creatures inspired by Fini’s own striking appearance, accompanied by languid men. Leonor Fini’s life was as rule-breaking as her art; she had many lovers, and spent much of her life living in a happy throuple — along with about 20 cats.

DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins producer/host Susan Stone to introduce this episode’s featured Dead Lady.

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast #62: Leonor Fini”

Podcast #61: Emmy Noether

For our 61st episode, we bring back the presenter who appeared in our very first podcast episode, writer and translator Karen Margolis. Drawing from her own history in higher mathematics, Karen ably tells the tale of Germany’s Emmy Noether, who developed key theorems in theoretical physics and made important contributions to abstract algebra. Excluded from academic positions in Germany as a woman, she worked unpaid and under other lecturers’ names. Once she was finally allowed to teach in 1919, she had only 14 years until the Nazis banned her from universities, as a Jew. In American exile, she taught at the women’s college Bryn Mawr and occasionally at Princeton, though she felt she was not welcome at “the men’s university, where nothing female is admitted.”  Nowadays, everything from fellowships to a crater on the moon has honored Emmy, so it was clearly our turn to do so. 

DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins producer/host Susan Stone to introduce things. 

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast #61: Emmy Noether”

Dead Ladies NYC #22

At this, our twenty-second show (Wednesday, March 29, 7–9pm at the Red Room at KGB Bar), be regaled with the tales of an inventive storyteller and librarian who has had a long-reaching impact on children’s literature; a stylish designer who gives new meaning to the phrase eco-conscious; and a supposed femme fatale who was one of the most maligned women of the 21st century. Presented by three women with a deep love for literature, with a smattering of commentary by your devoted hosts.

In bittersweet news, this will be our last show at the Red Room for the time being before we move to a super-special new venue in May—details to come!


PURA BELPRÉ (1899–1982) was a New York City librarian from 1921 through 1944, during which she ran storytimes and performed puppet shows for children, sharing the folktales she’d grown up with in Puerto Rico. She was an early proponent of diversity and representation in children’s literature, as well as an author of numerous short stories, picture books, essays, and a novel. Today the American Library Association gives the annual Pura Belpré Awards for children’s and young adult literature.

ELIZABETH HAWES (1903–1971) was a gifted American designer, a prolific author, and a vocal labor activist. Over a career spanning five decades, she fought to bring high-quality garments to the masses and championed timeless style over passing trends. Although largely forgotten by the public, Hawes is beloved by fashion historians — in part for her role as an outspoken critic of the garment trade. Several shows are now giving Hawes her due, including Elizabeth Hawes: Along Her Own Lines, the first exhibition centered on her radical re-conceptions of the fashion industry, on view at the Museum at FIT through March 26.

MATA HARI (1876–1917) was a Dutch exotic dancer, courtesan, and spy who duped both Germany and France through her liaisons and allegedly brought down 50,000 soldiers during World War I. Although her innocence is contested, her life is a story of great risk and ambition including traveling far and wide, bearing children, forging relationships with high ranking officials, learning several languages, performing Asian dances, and trading secrets as well as gossip on invisible ink! How old was she when this occurred? Did she make it out alive? What happened to her husband and children? You will find out more at The Dead Ladies Show!


Your presenters:

KRISTA AHLBERG is a copyeditor and writer living in Brooklyn. She had an actual bookstore inside her house until she was six, so her fate as a book lover was sealed from an early age.

ANNALISE GALL works for the New York Public Library and is studying textile conservation at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

SYEDA ZAIDI is a Brooklyn resident who loves a good old world scandal, apart from more innocent activities like listening to Latin music, going dancing, and baking for friends. By profession, she is an 11th-grade teacher. She wakes up everyday aiming to teach English and History, but comes home expanding her vocabulary of teen boy slang! Oh, ambition!

Podcast #60: Delia Derbyshire

In this episode, we’re going to hear about a woman sometimes called a sculptress of sound —  “the unsung heroine of British electronic music” —  Delia Derbyshire, ably presented by our very own DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire.  

A working-class girl from Coventry, England, Delia studied music and mathematics, and went on to work at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. If you’re a SciFi fan, you’ve probably heard one of her best known works — the otherworldly theme tune to the TV show Doctor Who. A true pioneer of pre-synthesizer electronic sounds, Delia created music for more than 200 projects, but remained anonymous due to the BBC’s bureaucratic structures. She also set up studios making electronic music for soundtracks, festivals and theatre productions, until she left the public eye in 1975. 

DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens joins producer Susan to set things up. 

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast. You can download the transcript, created by Rachel Pronger, here.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast #60: Delia Derbyshire”

Dead Ladies NYC #21

Join us, February 22, 7–9pm at the Red Room, for our twenty-first Dead Ladies Show on American soil, as we do things just a little bit differently! We will learn about two pioneering artists (an aristocrat-turned-Marxist and an Argentinian-turned-Italian) and a death-defying homemaker with a healthy respect for packaged baked goods. Presented by a postdoc, a photog, and a professional performer, respectively. Buy your tickets here, and we can’t wait to see you there!


INJI AFLATOUN (1924–1989) was a pioneering painter and feminist in mid-20th century Egypt. She was born to a traditional family she described as “semi-feudal and bourgeois,” before joining the League of University and Institutes’ Young Women and embracing new, more communal politics. After a two-year painting hiatus that reflected this political transformation between 1946 and 1948, Aflatoun resumed her artistic work, engaged in further political activism, and emphasized in her works a growing solidarity with Egyptian working class communities of the time.

Defying all expectations about what a woman should be, LEONOR FINI (1907–1996) was one of the most fiercely independent artists of her time. Known for her fashionable presence, lion-like hair, and intriguing personality, she was one of the few female artists that the male Surrealists treated as an equal. In a flip of the male gaze, her artwork is characterized by powerfully dominant women, while the men are frail and vulnerable. Openly bisexual and polyamorous, Leonor Fini remains one of the most unapologetically provocative artists in the Surrealist movement.

ANGELINA KATZ (1936–2019) loved a good laugh. She killed bees and wasps with her bare hands, walked barefoot in the snow, and could catch our parakeet Chirpy with a dishcloth whenever he got loose. She worked at Child’s World for decades and loved the kids even though they ruined her back. Her chicken parmigiana was legendary, and she believed Entenmann’s coffee cake could solve all solvable problems. She taught us the essential life rules: a crow is a visit from the dead, and never to follow an empty hearse. She loved to vacuum, especially when anyone’s favorite show was on TV. She once drove straight through the garage without braking.


Your presenters:

HUSSEIN MOHSEN is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and a freelance writer who focuses on science and technology and the history and politics thereof as they pertain to the Arab World.

JR PEPPER is a photographer, lecturer, photo retoucher, researcher, cemetery tour-guide and self described ‘professional eccentric”. A New York native, she is known for her spirit photography and her peculiar love of guinea pigs.

CARLA KATZ is a storyteller and comic. She is a Moth StorySlam Champion and has been featured on PBS Stories from the Stage and The Moth Radio Hour. She has graced stages all over NY and NJ. More at www.carlakatz.com.

Podcast 59: Berenice Abbott

Welcome to our first podcast of 2023! In this episode, we zoom in on photographer Berenice Abbott. This American artist has a bit of a six-degrees-of separation going on with a number of our previous Dead Ladies, including Baroness von Freytag-Loringhoven and Emma Goldman. As told by DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens, Berenice’s story includes stints in Paris and Berlin, falling in love with eligible ladies, and learning photography from Man Ray. She took portraits of various greats, and when she returned to New York she switched to documenting the changing city, resulting in what’s called the “the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made.” Later in life she also excelled at scientific photography, taking with her studies of light and motion contributing to the understanding of physical laws and properties of solids and liquids, as she also made innovations in camera technology.

DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins producer Susan Stone to introduce our episode.

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast. You can download the transcript, created by Rachel Pronger, here.

Show notes:

Read more: Podcast 59: Berenice Abbott
Penicillin mold (1946), as seen in NYPL’s wonderful Treasures exhibition
Portrait of Berenice by Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven
Berenice and Leonora Carrington, various men
Berenice’s newly sophisticated haircut
Man Ray’s Berenice or Baroness?
The only extant photograph of Berenice’s sculpture work
Thelma Wood
Man Ray’s portrait of Proust
Self-portrait with new camera

You cab see Berenice’s image of a Central Park Hooverville here, and read more about her MoMA mural here.

Elizabeth McCausland (aka Butchy) looking adoringly at Gertrude Stein
Glorious Penn Station
The NYPL has all of their Changing New York images up for your perusal, and you read McCausland’s original captions in Sarah M. Miller’s Documentary in Dispute.
Photographer Douglas Levere went back to the exact sites of Berenice’s pictures decades later, showing how much New York had changed again.

You can watch the full PBS doc The Quantum Universe at Archive.org and learn more about Berenice’s inventions like the Supersight camera here.

Berenice’s final portrait
Do watch Martha Wheelock & Kay Weaver’s Berenice Abbott: A View of the 20th Century!
Muriel Rukeyser’s eye, for more on their collaboration, read Rowena Kennedy-Epstein’s Unfinished Spirit
Muriel Rukeyser’s Twentieth Century

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon.

Podcast 58: Ruth Asawa

It’s our final podcast of 2022!

DLS co-founders Florian Duijsens and Katy Derbyshire join producer Susan Stone to toast the holiday season, chat about this year’s good news in Dead Ladies, and to introduce our featured Dead Lady, artist Ruth Asawa. 

Born to Japanese parents on a farm in California, Ruth Asawa first developed her artistic tendencies tracing shapes in the dirt. When her family was interned during World War II by the US government (along with thousands of US citizens with Japanese heritage, following the bombing of US military base Pearl Harbor by the Japanese) her life was put on hold, but she made opportunity where she could find it. When she was prevented from becoming a teacher by anti-Japanese prejudice and laws, she studied art and became a sculptor, often weaving cheap found material and wire. Her public artworks and her art education advocacy made her chosen home city, San Francisco, a more beautiful place, and her sculptures are now auctioned for millions, and exhibited around the world. 

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast. You can download the transcript, created by Rachel Pronger, here.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast 58: Ruth Asawa”