Podcast 58: 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 58: 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”

Dead Ladies NYC #20

We are thrilled to invite you to our twentieth DLS NYC on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, at the Red Room at KGB Bar! (85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, Third Floor.) You can buy your tickets here!!!

It’ll be a sister act (in fact, if you’ve been with us a while, you’ll know it’s our very own Sister Act II), featuring one nun presented and a pair of sisters doing the other two presentations! LOVE IT.

Join us as we are regaled with the tales of a nun even the pope couldn’t bar from good works, a groundbreaking American dramatist, and a Black champion of Southern cuisine. Presented by three fascinating and intrepid Women of History(TM).

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


CLARE OF ASSISI (1194–1253), born a noblewoman, is best known for her association with Francis of Assisi. When she was 18, she eluded unwanted marriage, escaped her parental home, and taking a vow of poverty, established a community of lay women under his guidance. She preached and served lepers and the poor—the life Francis had promised her—until a powerful cardinal set about to make her a cloistered nun. Ultimately from behind locked walls, Clare waged a decades-long fight with the papacy, upending some of its plans and blindsiding the pope who thought he had shut her from the world.

SUSAN GLASPELL (1876–1948) is the greatest writer you’ve (probably) never heard of. She flourished during the golden age of the short story, co-founded the first modern American theater company, the Provincetown Players, and earned the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A path-breaking feminist writer, her play, Trifles, will keep you hanging on the edge of your seat and twist your stomach into knots. It’s a real killer. 

EDNA LEWIS (1916–2006) was a self-taught African American chef and champion of Southern food, who trail-blazed the farm-to-table movement in the US—well before the model came to define the work of Chef Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. Born in Freetown, Virginia, Lewis eventually moved to New York City, where she opened Café Nicholson in 1948 with her friend, Johnny Nicholson. As the Midtown restaurant’s chef—rare for a Black woman at the time—she attracted literati, movie stars, and bohemians for decades with a pared down menu of roasted chicken and chocolate soufflé. Her mentorship and four cookbooks, based on a seasonal appreciation for ingredients, challenged America’s perception of the South and elevated its foodways.


Your presenters:

KATHLEEN BRADY is the author of Ida Tarbell: Portrait of A Muckraker, for which she was named a Fellow of the Society of American Historians. She has also written biographies of Lucille Ball and now Francis and Clare of Assisi.

DEBORAH STREAHLE is a historian who writes about health activism, psychedelics, and death in American culture.

DR. KRISTEN STREAHLE is an expert in medieval Sicilian art and architecture. She has also worked in communities around the country to shift policy and urban design toward increasing food accessibility.

Dead Ladies Show #33: Berenice Abbott & Delia Derbyshire

We couldn’t let this hectic year come to a close without one last DLS! This time we don’t have any funding, so there are only two talks, both in English, by your beloved co-hosts Florian Duijsens and Katy Derbyshire. Learn all about two impressive pioneers in their fields, women who pushed boundaries and gave us great work.

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. Doors open 7.30 pm – come on time to get a good seat! We have limited space, so please book in advance.


BERENICE ABBOTT learned photography from scratch with Man Ray in 1920s Paris, where she did portraits of all the cool kids, alongside sculpture and poetry. Back in New York she switched to documentary photography, capturing the changing city with a sociologist’s eye. That work has been called “the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made.” She lived with her partner, the art critic Elizabeth McCausland, for 30 years, invented various pieces of photographic equipment, and later moved into scientific photography, with her studies of light and motion contributing to the understanding of physical laws and properties of solids and liquids.

DELIA DERBYSHIRE (no relation) pioneered electronic music in the UK’s BBC Radiophonic Workshop – if you’ve ever watched Doctor Who, you’ll remember her stunning theme music. A working-class girl from Coventry, she studied music and mathematics. At the BBC, she worked on music for some 200 programmes but remained anonymous due to the corporation’s bureaucratic structures. She set up studios making electronic music for soundtracks, festivals and theatre productions, until she largely gave up music in 1975. She left a large archive of sound material and papers, and has been hailed as “the unsung heroine of British electronic music” and a sculptress of sound.

Podcast 57: Angela Carter

To kick off Season 6 of our podcast, writer Leon Craig brings us the story of award-winning English author Angela Carter. Known for her feminist, gothic, and erotic sensibilities and for re-inventing folk and fairy tales with her now seminal collection The Bloody Chamber, Carter’s life had quite a few plot twists of its own. In her 51 years she wrote nine novels, five short story collections, several children’s books, and countless essays and articles. She also collected quite a few lovers after awakening from a stifling marriage, harvesting them first from her social circle and friends’ husbands, then later more randomly during her two years living in Japan. Shortly after her death from cancer, Angela Carter received a strong wave of recognition, and her writing is now taught to generations of British school kids.

Our presenter Leon Craig has received more than a few comparisons to Carter for her own debut story collection, Parallel Hells, which is now out in paperback from Sceptre Books. At the White Review, you can read that collection’s “Lick the Dust,” which was selected for Best British Short Stories 2022 . Leon can be found at www.leoncraigwriter.com and on Twitter @Leon_c_c.

This episode, DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins producer/host Susan Stone to introduce the episode and talk more about writers Carter and Craig.

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

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast 57: Angela Carter”

Dead Ladies Show #32: Romy Schneider, Emmy Noether & Valerie Gell

After our summer break, it’s high time we returned to the ACUD stage! So on Tuesday, September 27, please join our guest presenters, writer and translator KAREN MARGOLIS and musician BERNADETTE LA HENGST, along with your beloved co-host FLORIAN DUIJSENS, to learn about three ladies who made great strides for womankind. All held together by your other beloved co-host KATY DERBYSHIRE. Join us in the ACUD Studio as the night sets in, celebrating women who lived as best they could in difficult circumstances.

As always, presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €7 or €4 reduced entry. Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7.30 pm – come on time to get a good seat!

We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite.


ROMY SCHNEIDER made her film debut as a child – perhaps not surprisingly, both her parents and her grandmother were actors. She soon had a flourishing career, acting her way into millions of hearts as a saccharine embodiment of Austria’s Empress Sissi. As she got older, Romy gradually liberated herself from her audience’s expectations, partly by moving from Germany to France. Paris Match magazine compared her to Garbo, Dietrich, and Monroe for sheer star power, but the press came to plague her private life. She died far too young, adored by moviegoers across Europe. Sadly, the Austrian train dubbed after her was renamed “Familyland Austria” in 2002. That’s what happens when you vote right-wing populists into government.

EMMY NOETHER has been called (by male mathematicians) “the most important woman in the history of mathematics”. She 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 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”. She died at 53 after surgery. There is a Wikipedia page of things named after her, from theorems to moon craters and fellowships. She loved to dance.

VALERIE GELL was working in a Liverpool department store and teaching herself guitar and drums when she read about an all-girl beat group in the local paper. When it turned out they couldn’t play, Valerie went ahead and taught them how. After supporting bands like the Rolling Stones and the Kinks at home, the Liverbirds were offered a residency at Hamburg’s Star Club in 1964, and really came into their own. The band began to hit the singles charts, Val singing the more raucous R&B-numbers and playing rhythm guitar. She left the Liverbirds to care for her boyfriend after a car crash and ended up not playing for 26 years. She returned to the stage in Hamburg in her fifties, found love with her wife Susann, and died at the age of 71.

Podcast 56: Mae West

Courtesy of our pals at DLS NYC, we meet the first meta sex symbol: Mae West. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Mae was brazen, buxom, bawdy, sensational, and sexy. She was known for her husky voice, risqué performances, and double entendres that slipped past the film censors. With over 70 years in show business on both stage and screen, she scandalized the world of entertainment in a time when women were expected to sit on the sidelines. But, as Mae West would tell you, “goodness had nothing to do with it.”

DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens joins producer Susan Stone to introduce our featured Dead Lady.

Artist, lecturer, researcher, and self-described ‘professional eccentric’ JR Pepper tells Mae’s story; you can find out more about JR here.

DLS NYC is curated and hosted by Molly O’Laughlin Kemper, and was recorded by Jennifer Nulsen, all under the auspices of the KGB Bar’s Lori Schwarz.

If you’re in the NY area, why not sign up for their newsletter so you can find out when the next show will be? Find it here.

You can download the transcript, created by Annie Musgrove, here.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast 56: Mae West”

Podcast 55: Virginia Andrews

This episode was recorded at the second-ever PodFest Berlin, a local two-day event full of workshops, networking, free ice cream, and live tapings from podcasts in various languages, including one from us. 

Dead Ladies Show co-founder Katy Derbyshire and podcast producer/host Susan Stone were there for a mini DLS, and took turns hosting and presenting bilingually in German and English in front of a small but perfectly formed audience. 

In this episode, we hear Susan tell the story of Virginia Andrews. Better known as V.C. Andrews, this blockbusting American author probably launched the sexual curiosities of generations of teens and pre-teens — for better or worse. Her psychological horror/romance books, starting with 1979’s bestselling Flowers in the Attic, were banned in school districts and libraries, but earned millions internationally. The tale of children held captive by an evil grandmother was sadly somewhat mirrored in Virginia’s own reclusive, highly controlled life. 

Though she was disabled by a medical condition from her teen years on, Virginia supported her family through her artwork and writing. After her death, a prolific ghostwriter was appointed to continue books under her name, but her legacy really endures on the strength of her original seven bestsellers, which merged classic fairy tale themes with contemporary issues of trauma and abuse.  

Also available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast.

You can download the transcript, created by Susan Stone, here.

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast 55: Virginia Andrews”

Dead Ladies NYC #19

It was wonderful seeing so many of you last month at DLS NYC #18! We are very pleased to announce that we’ll be back in the Red Room on September 7, 2022 for our nineteenth NYC show. (Can you believe it??)

At this, our nineteenth show, be regaled with the tales of an imperious librarian who fended off literary predators to protect the people’s access to great work; a Black lesbian playwright who made history on Broadway and off; and a justice perhaps best described as simply…notorious. Presented by three live ladies who have each graced the DLS stage before, now back and better than ever!

SHEILA ENRIGHT is a human woman who lives in New York. She can usually be found sitting or standing when not lying down. 

MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER is a writer living in New York. Her work has appeared most recently in MUTHA Magazine. She also just so happens to be the host of the DEAD LADIES SHOW NYC.

EMILY KNAPP lives and works in New York. She is also the founding partner of LTDEDTN (@__ltdedtn__), a gallery that showcases emerging artists, one artwork at a time.

Join us, Wednesday, September 7, 7–9pm at the Red Room at KGB Bar! (85 E 4th St, New York, NY 10003, Third Floor.)

NB: Due to an increased bar minimum at our beautiful space, we will now be charging a $10 cover. Get your tickets here!

*** If this charge poses financial difficulties for you, please email me and we can absolutely work something out! ***

Read more: Dead Ladies NYC #19

LOLA SZLADITS (1923–1990) was a librarian and curator of the Berg Collection of English and American Literature at the New York Public Library. During her 20 year tenure, she built up the Berg into one of the world’s great collections of English and American literary manuscripts and rare books. A “dragon guarding the treasure horde,” Lola was renowned for her sardonic sense of humor, and feared for her caustic wit. With an unparalleled foresight for authors who would become giants in the canon of English Literature, she wrangled with “hard hitting literary widows” and held off well-heeled collectors to ensure that the public had access to the manuscripts and papers of such greats as Virginia Woolf, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, and Samuel Beckett.

When her play A Raisin in the Sun opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on March 11, 1959, LORRAINE HANSBERRY (1930–1965) became the first Black woman to have a play performed on Broadway. At only 29 years old, she became the youngest American playwright to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, and she was nominated for a Tony to boot. Her writing ranged from the intimately personal (e.g. her experience as a closeted lesbian married to a white Jewish man) to the global and political (Black liberation worldwide), and everything in-between.

Justice RUTH BADER GINSBURG (1933–2020) was the second woman and first Jewish woman confirmed to the United States Supreme Court. Guided by her Jewish identity and upbringing, Justice Ginsburg spent her entire career using her expert knowledge of the law to advance the lives of those not fully protected by our Constitution—especially women. After spending 27 years on the court, Justice Ginsburg succumbed to complications from cancer on September 18, 2020 on Rosh Hashanah; those who pass on this auspicious day are considered a Tzedek/ket or a righteous person.

Dead Ladies Show @ PodFest Berlin

Even though it’s summer, we’re still getting busy. While Florian travels (and teaches), Katy and Susan will be presenting a mini-Dead Ladies Show at PodFest Berlin on Saturday, July 16th from 7-8pm (doors open 6:15pm) at Noisy Rooms, Revaler Str. 99, 10245 Berlin (inside House of Music).

See below for more information on the two ladies in question, who will, as always, be presented in a messy mixture of English and German.

Tickets are €10, and include the Dead Ladies Show, plus a day pass to all festival events on Saturday including workshops and panels, seminars, and other events, as well as free coffee and a gift bag! Please book in advance for this event here.

You can also purchase a 2-Day pass, which will include our event on Saturday and everything else on offer!

DLS fans can enter this code for 20% off all PodFest Berlin tickets: COMMUNITY-DEAL-22

We also have one 2-Day All-Access pass to PodFest Berlin to give away for free — contact us if you’re interested!

Read more: Dead Ladies Show @ PodFest Berlin

IRMGARD KEUN: As an ingenue, German writer Irmgard Keun’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.

V.C. ANDREWS: Known as Virginia to friends and family, and considered notorious by readers, this blockbusting American author probably launched the sexual curiosities of generations of teens and pre-teens — for better or worse. Her psychological horror/romance books, starting with 1979’s bestselling Flowers in the Attic, were banned in school districts and libraries across most of the US, spawning both copycats and protests. The tale of children held captive by an evil grandmother was sadly mirrored in Virginia’s own reclusive, highly controlled life.