Podcast #27: Margaret Fountaine

On Episode 27, we meet a Dead Lady Lepidopterist! Dead Ladies Show co-founder Florian Duijsens introduces us to Margaret Fountaine, an English explorer and naturalist who collected butterflies and loved love. Her exciting scientific life and world travels were well-known, but her romantic adventures were only revealed when Margaret’s copious diaries were read in 1978, 100 years after she first started them at age 15.

Florian’s talk was recorded live at ACUD (shoutout to sound engineer Hyui Ines Rmi) just two months ago in Berlin. For the podcast, our other Dead Ladies Show co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins podcast producer & presenter Susan Stone to revel in Margaret’s lovely and at times heart-breaking tale.

Also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast. You can download a transcript here.

Show notes:

diaries

These are the diaries that emerged in 1978.

And here’s some portraits of Margaret herself from the diaries.

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Septimus Hewson, the cowlicked singer from Limerick

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The kind of bike the Fountaine sisters rode 600km through Europe

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Khalil as he appears in the diary

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Some of Margaret’s beautiful art

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The euploea phaenareta margaretae, named after Margaret

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The ceratinia ninonia neimyi, which she named after Khalil

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Margaret late in life

Margaret’s guerillaed blue plaque

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

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode in January. And here’s a link to our Patreon page, in case you’d like to help fund transcripts.

Dead Ladies Show #24

There’s just one week to go until our next show here in Berlin, our last in 2019! So roll up, roll up for show number 24, in which we present three accomplished ladies who battled prejudice to lead self-determined lives: a hugely influential writer and anthropologist, an incredible dancer and comedian, and a spy who came out as a woman — more on them below. Introduced to you by the amazing author and filmmaker FATIN ABBAS, prestigious journalist and writer KATJA KULLMANN, and your beloved co-host KATY DERBYSHIRE. All held together at the seams by your other beloved co-host, FLORIAN DUIJSENS. Come on up to the ACUD Studio for an evening of entertainment, inspiration, and fabulous females.

As always, the show is presented in a messy mixture of English and German, and once again generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Join us Tuesday 19 November at the ACUD Studio, doors open 7:30 – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink! €5 or €3 reduced entry.

ZORA NEALE HURSTON was a writer and anthropologist. Although her grandparents were born into slavery, she grew up in the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida, where her father was mayor. She moved to New York to study anthropology and became part of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance movement of African-American arts. Alongside researching cultural practices in the Caribbean and the American South, she wrote folklore collections and novels, plays and musical revues, essays, satirical articles, and non-fiction. Not all of it was published during her lifetime; her work was rediscovered in the 1970s, prompted by Alice Walker, who also found an unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Florida, and reclaimed it as hers. Hurston’s writing about the African-American experience has been an inspiration to several generations of authors.

NORMA MILLER, nicknamed the Queen of Swing, was an African-American dancer, choreographer, and comedian. Born in Harlem, she began dancing at five and went on to make a career of it before she turned eighteen. “Black girls didn’t have many outlets,” she explained, and she was still teaching dance at the age of 98. In between, she danced in Hollywood movies – most notably the bizarre 1941 comedy Hellzapoppin’ with Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers – toured with her own troupe, and went into comedy when her knees started knocking. She produced and starred in shows, performing in Miami and Las Vegas with the likes of Cab Calloway and Sammy Davis Jr. In her later years, Norma Miller played a major role in the swing revival from the 1980s until her death early in 2019.

Charles Geneviève Louise Auguste André Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont, known as the CHEVALIÈRE D’ÉON, lived for 49 years as a man and spent the last 33 years of her life as a woman. She claimed to have been assigned female at birth in 1728 Burgundy and raised as a boy, but her elderly roommate got quite a shock when she found her dead body had male genitalia. Having served as a spy to the French king, the chevalière went into the military and then diplomacy, continuing her espionage for Louis XV from London. When the king died, d’Éon negotiated a return to France and legal recognition as a woman, then reluctantly assumed women’s clothing, made for her by Marie Antoinette’s personal dressmaker. She earned a meagre living after the French Revolution by performing in English fencing tournaments, wrote an unreliable autobiography and developed her own theology of virtuous womanhood, and died at the impressive age of 82.

Podcast #26: Doreen Valiente & Martha Maxwell

Episode 26 brings you spooky Dead Lady tales all the way from NYC! First, Claire Carroll introduces us to England’s Doreen Valiente, known as the mother of modern witchcraft. In the UK and beyond, she was key in the spread of modern day Wicca, now a world-wide religion. Doreen also had more than a few secrets under her cape.
Then, it’s time for a live lady taxidermist talking about a Dead Lady taxidermist! Divya Anantharaman of Gotham Taxidermy brings us the story of American naturalist and taxidermy pioneer Martha Maxwell.

The talks were recorded live at two separate editions of NYC DLS, which is hosted and curated by Molly O’Laughlin Kemper, with support from Nicolas Kemper and Christopher Neil and Lori Schwarz, general manager of the KGB Bar’s Red Room, where the event is held. Join the NYC newsletter to stay updated on the next ones!

Dead Ladies Show co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins podcast producer & presenter Susan Stone to chat about these spooky wonderful dames and more.

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

Show notes:

Now for some pictures!

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Image: © Doreen Valiente Foundation

Here’s Doreen with some of the tools of her trade.

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Image: © Doreen Valiente Foundation

And here are some of her ceremonial artifacts shown as they would be on an altar.

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Image: © Doreen Valiente Foundation

Ritual books owned by Doreen Valiente, including Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows at the back

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The Blue Plaque marking the last home Doreen lived in. It’s the only historic plaque on a public housing building in the UK.

…onto the taxidermy portion of our show…

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Image: © Molly O’Laughlin

Presenter Divya Anantharaman artfully combines Rihanna lyrics with taxidermy to illustrate Martha Maxwell’s burning desire for knowledge.

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Lion of Gripsholm. Copyright: Kungl. Hovstaterna/The Royal Court, Sweden

Taxidermy hasn’t always been done skillfully. The Lion of Gripsholm is an infamous example of what happens when someone who has never seen the animal alive is tasked with recreating it from its skin alone.

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Image: © Museum of Natural History, Berlin

And, get a load of these ocelots! Can you *spot* the difference? Again, one was prepared by someone with little to no knowledge of the actual animal. 

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Martha Maxwell sensibly attired in her hunting outfit.

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Maxwell’s display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition was the first of its kind.

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

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode in November. And here’s a link to our Patreon page, in case you’d like to help fund transcripts.

Dead Ladies Show #23

Here comes show number 23! In which we bring you three women who suffered for their passions but left us inspiring legacies and impressive role models – a lady lepidopterist from Norwich, a coffee-brewing Canadian poet with magical concerns, and a pioneering Korean artist and essayist. Presented by your beloved co-host FLORIAN DUIJSENS, German poets BIRGIT KREIPE & MONIKA RINCK, and our very own podcast producer SUSAN STONE (very graciously filling in for a presenter who couldn’t make it!). All held together by your other beloved co-host KATY DERBYSHIRE.

Join us on September 24th, 8pm, at the ACUD Studio for an evening of entertainment, inspiration, and fabulous females. As always, presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €5 or €3 reduced entry. Once again generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7:30 – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!

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MARGARET FOUNTAINE was a British butterfly-collector who travelled to over 60 countries (fortified by sips of brandy). She discovered, documented, and bred specimens for more than 50 years, reportedly dying with a butterfly net in her hand while collecting in Trinidad. She published scientific papers in The Entomologist and became the only female fellow in the Royal Entomological Society in 1898. She also held talks internationally, on subjects such as “the sagacity of caterpillars”. Fountaine met her partner and traveling companion Khalil Neimy in Damascus, where she hired him as a dragoman. In her copious diaries, she wrote of her “wild and fearless life” during which she “enjoyed greatly and suffered much.” There is, of course, a butterfly genus named in her honor.

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Canadian writer and translator GWENDOLYN MacEWEN published her first poem at the age of seventeen, and had written her first novel a year later. She taught herself Hebrew, Arabic, ancient and modern Greek, and French, and translated from all of them. Despite running a Toronto coffee shop and leading a life cut short by alcohol-related health issues, she published more than twenty books of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, children’s fiction, and translated drama. MacEwen’s particular interest was in magic, ancient societies and philosophies; she defined poetry as “…the sound you make when you come, and why you live and how you bleed, and the sound you make or don’t make when you die.”

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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.

Dead Ladies Show #22

Our new season is built around outstanding Berlin writers, who will share stories of awe-inspiring women who’ve fascinated them and influenced their work. We’re ready and waiting for you with show number 22… So please join us on Tuesday June 18th to learn about three women who did surprising things: an actor-cum-inventor, a writer not nearly as ladylike as her reputation, and a revolutionary and influential Marxist feminist. Presented by award-winning American writer and translator ISABEL COLE, prize-dripping German novelist CHRISTIANE NEUDECKER, and your beloved co-host KATY DERBYSHIRE. All held together at the seams by your other beloved co-host, FLORIAN DUIJSENS. Come on up to the ACUD Studio for an evening of entertainment, inspiration, and fabulous females.

As aways, presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €5 or €3 reduced entry. Once again generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7:30 – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!


HEDY LAMARR had six marriages, six divorces, and three children, and acted in thirty movies in Vienna, Berlin, Czechoslovakia, Hollywood, and Italy. Touted by Louis B. Mayer as “the world’s most beautiful woman”, she was often typecast as a glamourous exotic vixen and played her fair share of implausible “natives”. Having been raised as a Catholic and only child by Jewish parents in Vienna, she later helped her mother escape the Nazis and brought her to the US. Bored by her unchallenging acting roles, she staved off loneliness by working on inventing projects. Her most successful – eventually – was a frequency-hopping signal for radio-controlled torpedoes, so that they that could not be tracked or jammed. The US Navy did not implement it during WWII, but it was used from 1962 on and is now part of Bluetooth technology. Lamarr has a star on Hollywood Boulevard and a number of inventor’s awards.

DAPHNE DU MAURIER rebelled against her actor parents by becoming a novelist, but to make up for it she also wrote plays. Her most famous novel is the chilling Rebecca, which has never been out of print since 1938. She also wrote historical fiction, satire, and biographies – but was often dismissed as a “romantic novelist”. Those idiots clearly never read her terrifying short stories, several of which were adapted for the screen, including “The Birds”. Du Maurier married an aristocratic military man and had three children, leading a quiet life in Cornwall. Some believe she had secret lesbian affairs, and her plays certainly suggest she had interesting thoughts about interpersonal relations. A rediscovered story from her younger days, “The Doll”, focuses on a woman’s obsession with a mechanical sex toy. Intriguing? Oh yes.

ALEXANDRA KOLLONTAI was a Marxist revolutionary who became one of the first female diplomats, representing the Soviet Union in Norway and elsewhere from 1922. After the revolution, she founded the “Women’s Department” to improve women’s lives in the new state. Kollontai wrote about marriage and traditional families as oppressive and about sexuality as a natural human instinct, and she lived by these values for many years. She left her first husband to study economics in Switzerland, and later took various lovers, mostly younger. A vocal internal critic of the Communist Party, her diplomatic postings were effectively a form of exile to prevent her meddling in politics. When Stalin’s purges began, she lost many of her friends and former lovers, but her son and nephew survived. She was the only leading Bolshevik from revolutionary times to die a natural death, aside of course from Stalin.

Dead Ladies Show #21

We are so very excited to invite you to our 21st show! We’re old enough to drive a heavy goods vehicle! So get ready for a juggernaut of an event. ACHTUNG: IT’S A MITTWOCH, BABY!

On Wednesday 10 April, 8pm, We’ll be kicking off our new season, built around outstanding Berlin writers who will share stories of awe-inspiring women who’ve fascinated them and influenced their work. Join us to learn about a groundbreaking children’s writer, an actor and screenwriter who helped save lives, and an adventurous journalist and novelist (more on all three below). Presented by top German writer Daniela Dröscher, shooting star Amanda DeMarco, and your beloved co-host Florian Duijsens. All held together at the seams by your other beloved co-host, Katy Derbyshire. Come on up to the ACUD Studio for an evening of entertainment, inspiration, and fabulous females.

As always, presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €5 or €3 reduced entry. Once again generously supported by the Berliner Senat. The ACUD Studio doors open 7:30pm – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!


CHRISTINE NÖSTLINGER grew from a “wild and angry child” in a socialist household in wartime Vienna into a multiple-award-winning writer best known for her children’s books. Her first was written at the kitchen table as a housewife and published in 1970, but she graduated to three different desks for her radio, newspaper, and book jobs. Nöstlinger’s stories were far removed from the “pedagogical pills” of the past. Parents are fallible, children are disobedient but not bad people, and her language is both funny and shocking. She was not afraid to admit that she found some children very unpleasant, but she wrote with great empathy, wisdom, and humanitarianism.

SALKA VIERTEL was another Austrian, in this case originally an actor. She worked in Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg, and Düsseldorf, and raised three sons. Feeling “neither pretty nor young enough” to move from the stage to the screen after she and her husband moved to the States, she switched to writing Hollywood scripts, especially for her friend Greta Garbo. Her credits include Hollywood versions of The Painted Veil and Anna Karenina. Having helped fellow Jewish artists to escape the Nazis with emergency visas, she was put out of work by McCarthy-era suspicion and ended up moving to Switzerland.

EMILY HAHN was the first woman to graduate in mining engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As if that weren’t cool enough, she then drove across the U.S.A. dressed as a man, before working for the Red Cross in Belgian Congo. Hahn spent an eventful decade writing for the New Yorker in Shanghai and Hong Kong, before returning to the West with a small child and a newly divorced British intelligence officer. Family life was not for her, however, so she moved to New York and visited her husband and two daughters occasionally, turning up at the magazine’s office every day. Her publications list runs to countless articles and 54 books, including biographies of top dead ladies Aphra Behn and Fanny Burnley.

Podcast #21: Noor Inayat Khan

Our 21st episode sees our beloved co-founder Katy Derbyshire tell the stirring story of Noor Inayat Khan, a pacifist who worked as a secret radio operator in occupied Paris. Recorded live at ACUD, and produced and presented by Susan Stone in March 2019.

Also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Acast.

Show notes & pics:

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The Khan family portrait, Noor’s the one with the bow
Her father, Inayat, and his band
You’ll have to imagine the groans.
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Mata Hari and Noor’s father’s Royal Musicians of Hindustan

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Noor’s mother, Pirani Ameena Begum (born Ora Ray Baker)

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Noor and her instrument

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See more of her books here.

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Some of the (wonderfully named) humans working in the SOE

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Noor’s ID card

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Katy’s grandmother!

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Vera Atkins (not Katy’s grandmother)

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Noor as a civilian

You can see a picture of the radio she was lugging around Paris here.

The plaque at Dachau commemorating Noor

The trailer for Enemy of the Reich, the first biopic of Noor’s

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The biography by Shrabani Basu that Katy recommends

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Dead Ladies Show #20

This is our 20th show! Who would have thought that, back when the idea was fermented over a bottle of Rotkäppchen? We’re celebrating in the best way we know – by dressing up fancy and talking about dead ladies on stage. This edition brings you three tales of women who lived flirtatious, outrageous, and courageous lives, each in their own way: a writer of intense fiction and diaries, a celebrity chef, and an anti-Nazi spy. Brought to you by translator, writer, and literary organizer Lucy Jones, writer, campaigner, and foodie Mary Scherpe, and regular Katy Derbyshire. All held together, of course, by your beloved co-host Florian Duijsens. Raise a glass with us – as we toast ourselves and all of you, plus these three fascinating women. Come along and join us in the ACUD Studio on Tuesday, 26 February at 8 pm.

Presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €5 or €3 reduced entry. Doors open 7:30 pm – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!

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East German writer Brigitte Reimann led an eventful life, cut short by cancer at the age of 39. She began writing at the age of 15, initially from within the GDR system, side by side with the workers and on official committees, showered with medals and awards. Reimann wrote short stories and plays for the stage, radio and screen – but publishers rejected her proposals for novels. Having married four times, she said of herself in one of her copious letters: “had a lot of men, did a lot of stupid things – that I don’t regret”. She devoted many years to her novel Franziska Linkerhand, published posthumously and in censored form in 1974, which even received grudging praise from West German critics. Today there are two libraries named after her, and her diaries are gradually being released in English translation.

British TV chef Fanny Cradock’s life was not exactly uneventful either. After her parents frittered away their money she was practically destitute in her youth, and only found her financial feet when she started working at restaurants and discovered fine dining. Eventually, she and her fourth husband got their own BBC television series, teaching the British how to cook fancy dishes without breaking the bank. She fell out of favour after two decades but continued to make the rounds of chat shows and celebrity quiz formats. Cradock is credited with introducing pizza to the UK and inventing the prawn cocktail (not an actual drink, don’t worry), and her eccentric manner mean she is well remembered to this day. Also, two of her marriages were bigamous, because why not.

War heroine Noor Inayat Khan lived to the age of 30. Her father, an Indian musician, playwright and religious teacher, met her American mother through the Sufi movement, and they raised their children in London and France. When World War II broke out, the family fled to England. A convinced pacifist, Inayat Khan hoped to fight the Nazis without shedding blood, and volunteered to train as a wireless operator. She was recruited to the Special Operations Executive and given truncated training before being flown into occupied France as an undercover operative. Betrayed after three months, she held fast under interrogation and twice attempted to escape. After a transfer to a German prison and ten months in shackles, she was executed in Dachau concentration camp. Her statue in London was the UK’s first memorial to a Muslim woman.

Podcast #18: Elsa Lanchester

The last part of our 4-part special FRANKENFRAUEN miniseries, produced in December 2018 by Susan Stone.

In a special encore presentation, Dead Ladies Show co-founder Florian Duijsens tells the story of Elsa Lanchester, the actress made famous by her role in 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein. Recorded live at Bard College Berlin.

Also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Acast.

Show notes:

Here are a few trailers to the movies in which Florian first encountered Elsa:

Elsa’s mother, Edith Lanchester. Read more about her scandalous cohabitation and activism here.

“Male impersonator” Vesta Tilley

Above, Elsa’s early favorite Vesta Tilley, and below, a longer version of Elsa talking about her time with Isadora Duncan in Paris

Lanchester’s Children’s Theatre

Below, a recording of Elsa singing one of her Cave of Harmony hits later in life and introduced by her husband, Charles Laughton

Elsa and Charles (right), along with the Lanchester family parrot (middle)

Here’s the delightful full version of the silent short Bluebottles (1928), one of Elsa’s first movie roles, scripted by H. G. Wells.

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Above, Charles Laughton; below, Elsa on a terrifying swing at their country home

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The full version of Elsa Lanchester’s role as Mary Shelley in Bride of Frankenstein, and as the creature’s eponymous bride

And here’s rare footage of Elsa live onstage later in life.

And here’s Elsa duetting with Elvis in 1967.

Elsa and Elvis in Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)

If you want to read more about and by Elsa Lanchester, check out her marvelous autobiography, Elsa Lanchester, Herself.

And as a special treat, here’s a version of the perennially problematic (and delightful) “Baby It’s Cold Outside” a sung on the radio in 1950 by Elsa and her husband.

Thanks for listening! Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Check out the first three parts of our FRANKENFRAUEN series for yet more fascinating women involved in some way with the classic story of Frankenstein.

Podcast #16: Mary Shelley

Part 2 of our 4-part special FRANKENFRAUEN miniseries, produced in December 2018 by Susan Stone.

To top off 2018 and get in one more celebration of the centenary of Frankenstein, beloved DLS co-host Florian Duijsens tells the story of its creator, Mary Shelley.

Also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, and Acast.

Show notes:

Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave marker at St. Pancras, London

by Amelia Curran, oil on canvas, 1819

Percy Bysshe (pronounced “bish”) Shelley, aged 27

from the 2018 film Mary Shelley

Tumblr loves Mary Shelley, understandably.

Barbarossa Chapel, Nijmegen, 1900
Portrait by Amelia Curran, 1819

Mary’s stepsister, Claire Claremont, aged 21

Portrait by Henry Pierce Bone, 1837

Lord Byron in a dreamy, posthumous portrait, below is a portrait of his personal physician, John Polidori.

Portrait by F. G. Gainsford

Here are the trailers for the three films about the legendary summer on Lake Geneva when Mary started writing the horror story what would become Frankenstein.

The title page of the first edition of Mary Shelley’s first novel
Portrait by Amelia Curran, 1819

Mary’s third child, William “Willmouse” Shelley, painted just before his death from malaria.

The Funeral of Shelley by Louis Edouard Fournier

Above, a painting depicting Shelley’s funeral pyre; below, locks of Mary and Percy’s hair

Frankenstein first found popularity through a plethora of (unauthorized) stage adaptations.

The first film adaptation, from 1910, recently restored by the Library of Congress

Below, Mary Shelley’s grave at Bournemouth, plus an engraving of the moment to her and Shelley

If you want to know more about Mary Shelley, do read the biographies by Muriel Spark and Miranda Seymour.

Thanks for listening! Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Check out the other three episodes in our FRANKENFRAUEN series for more fascinating women involved in some way with the classic story of Frankenstein.