Podcast #37: Chevalière d’Eon

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.

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

Show notes:

Here she is in a portrait by Thomas Stewart.
This is the entirely fabricated anime adaptation
And this is the only slightly more French film adaptation.
Embed from Getty Images
Note her lovely medal
And here she is earlier in life.
Note the funny helmet
The caricature from which Michael Urie got his Met Gala inspiration
Freemason caricature with mysterious accoutrements
Marie Antoinette’s enormous dress
That classy portrait from 1778
Her big fencing battle with the Black composer and champion fencer Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Born in Guadeloupe, he’d fought in the first all-Black regiment in Europe!
And here she is as Athena
Here she is late in life, more religious but still wearing that medal.

And if you wnat to know more about the Public Universal Friend, check out these two podcast episodes by NPR’s Throughline and What’s Her Name!

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Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon.
Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month.

Don’t forget, we now have a Patreon! Please consider supporting our transcripts project and our ongoing work: www.patreon.com/deadladiesshowpodcast

If you’d prefer to make a one-time donation, here’s the link: paypal.me/dlspodcast

Podcast #36: Shirley Jackson

Our 36th podcast episode brings you a glimpse of the acclaimed author of some of the most chilling tales in contemporary American literature, Shirley Jackson. Her short story “The Lottery” has been a true classic since its publication in 1948. Jackson blended gothic and horror elements with explorations of women’s alienation and search for identity. In her real life, she was forced to balance her tremendous talent with the everyday duties of a wife and mother and societal expectations of femininity which she defied at almost every step.  Our presentation from Krista Ahlberg comes courtesy of Dead Ladies Show NYC, and was recorded live by Christopher Neil in the Red Room at New York’s KGB Bar in 2019.

Dead Ladies Show co-founder Florian Duijsens joins podcast host/producer Susan Stone to discuss some of Shirley’s stories and the films and series in the extended Shirley Jackson universe.

Also available on Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast. You can read the transcript here.

Show notes:

Shirley and her college best friend
Here’s Shirley in 1938.
Shirley reading her classic short story “The Lottery”
One of those cartoons Shirley drew of her family
Shirley and her kids
Some of the medication Shirley might have been prescribed
The trailer for the original film version of The Haunting of Hill House
And Lili Taylor in the 1999 remake
And the Netflix version
And We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which cannot be a match for the book
To cleanse your palate, here’s the trailer for Josephine Decker’s Shirley, starring Elizabeth Moss

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Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon.
Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month.

Don’t forget, we now have a Patreon! Please consider supporting our transcripts project and our ongoing work: www.patreon.com/deadladiesshowpodcast

If you’d prefer to make a one-time donation, here’s the link: paypal.me/dlspodcast

Dead Ladies Show #26

It’s been, as they say, a minute since you’ve last heard from us. And it’s been very strange not to be up there on stage at ACUD every two months. We miss you! I know we’ve been in contact through the podcast, and through our Patreon book club, but however much we cherish our listeners from afar, and we do, there’s really something special about sharing these lives (and awesome guest presenters!) with a real-life Berlin audience.

So with the current restrictions in place, and a slight change of scenery, we’re doing our 26th show at ACUD on September 14. It’ll be a very intimate one, just 20 people in ACUD’s open-air courtyard, and all those tickets have been sold to lovely folks on our mailing list.

For our final show of this season, we’re excited to present two more outstanding Berlin writers who share stories of awe-inspiring women who’ve fascinated them and influenced their work. Show numéro 26 brings you three women who went against the grain: a journalist, an artist, and a teacher/writer. Presented by writer DIVYA GHELANIDILEK GÜNGÖR, and your beloved podcast producer SUSAN STONE. All held together by your perennial perma-hosts KATY DERBYSHIRE and FLORIAN DUIJSENS.

Investigative journalist, newspaper editor, educator, suffragist and early civil-rights leader IDA B. WELLS was the most famous Black woman in the United States during her lifetime. Her intrepid reporting on lynching in the Deep South and her powerful editorials taking on discrimination and violent treatment were read widely at home and abroad, and she was dubbed “The Princess of the Press.” Ida journeyed twice to Britain on speaking tours and ran (unsuccessfully) for the Illinois State Senate in 1930, all the while utilizing boycotts and lawsuits to further her cause, which made her for a time unpopular with some more conservative activists. However, she did find love with one of her fellow rights fighters, and after their marriage, he put his career on the back burner to cook dinner most nights and also care for the kids while she traveled.

DORA MAAR’s work as an artist spans from collage to street photography, from abstract landscape paintings to eerie photograms. It also spans almost the entire 20th century, and it certainly surpasses her relationship with a certain dickish cubist (ok, Picasso). Though her work with him was fundamental to masterpieces like Guernica, for which Maar provided key photographic documentation, she was more than just his “muse.” One of the few publicly acknowledged women surrealists, she entered into the relationship with skills to teach him. Having traveled all over the world in the first part of her life, she would spend the second half largely secluded in the countryside, and only after her death was the full spectrum and force of her work from all those many decades revealed.

Having grown up and trained to be a teacher in Guyana, BERYL GILROY arrived in the UK in the early 1950s as part of the so-called “Windrush generation.” Homeschooling her two kids (one of whom would grow up to be great historian Paul Gilroy, coiner of the “Black Atlantic”) and working as a maid, factory worker, and slush-pile reader before she’d be able to work as a teacher, she ultimately become the first Black headteacher in London! She crystallized that experience in Black Teacher, a radical memoir that has shamefully fallen out of print. She would publish nine more novels, plus poems, essays, and a series of children’s books reflecting the Black British experience. If that weren’t enough, she also trained as a ethno-psychotherapist, and her literary work certainly reflects that sharply trained eye.

Dead Ladies Show NYC #17 – Zoom edition!

The seventeenth edition of DLS NYC is upon us! Tuesday, July 21, from 7–8:15 pm on Zoom. This month, please join EMILY KNAPP and ELIZA ROCKEFELLER to learn about a visionary artist and teacher and the revolutionary Mayor of Christopher Street. Presented, respectively, by an art historian-slash-curator and a student of government and philosophy. 

 Free admission, and an ~*important note!*~ If you can, you’re welcome and encouraged to donate what you would have paid for a drink or two to the KGB Bar/Red Room, which has been hit hard financially by the pandemic. They are distributing 30% of all donations directly to employees. Donate here: Literary Landmark KGB Bar NYC Aid

We also ask that you consider donating to the following organization: G.L.I.T.S. Inc, a nonprofit led by trans women of color that works to address “the health and rights crises faced by transgender sex workers.”

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LOÏS MAILOU JONES (19051998) was a visionary artist and teacher who spent much of her 70-year career as an ardent advocate for African-American art. She established the art department at Palmer Memorial Institute and later became a professor at Howard University, where she mentored generations of African-American artists until her retirement in 1977. Her profound range spanned mediums and continents, from her early work designing textiles in New York to her captivating paintings of Paris and Port-au-Prince, not to mention her work as a U.S. cultural ambassador to numerous African countries in the 1970s. 

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MARSHA P. JOHNSON (1945-1992), also known as the “Mayor of Christopher Street”, was an activist, drag queen, performer, and sex worker. Credited as one of the initiators of the Stonewall uprising of 1969, co-founder of the radical activist group Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, and an AIDS activist with ACT UP, she was one of the most prominent figures in the fight for queer liberation.

About your presenters:

INDIRA A. ABISKAROON is an art historian based in New York City. She is currently on leave from her role as Curatorial Assistant, Collections at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

ALMA BRADLEY is a Senior at Hamilton College concentrating in Government and Philosophy. She is spending her summer conducting research on alt-right protest movements and experimenting with fermentation in her spare time. 

Dead Ladies Show NYC #16 – Zoom edition!

The sixteenth edition of DLS NYC is upon us! Tuesday, April 7, from 7–9pm, though we won’t meet in the Red Room this time, given the pandemic; we’re meeting on Zoom. We hear it’s hip to meet online these days! 😉

In April, join EMILY KNAPP, ELIZA ROCKEFELLER, and HALL ROCKEFELLER to learn about a colossal Jewish-American literary figure, a Celtic warrior queen, and a revolutionary prison-reform advocate. Presented, respectively, by a museum director-slash-historian, a classicist passionate about very dead ladies, and a director-slash-arts activist.

Free admission, and an ~*important note!*~ If you can, you’re welcome and encouraged to donate what you would have paid for a drink or two to the KGB Bar/Red Room, which has been affected by NYC’s mandated business closures and has been hit hard financially. They are distributing 30% of all donations directly to employees. Alternatively, you can buy drink tickets to use when the bar reopens (whenever normal life returns, blessed be the day!)—just specify “drink tickets for DLS” in your donation note.

Emma_Lazarus
EMMA LAZARUS, though now most famous for her poem “The New Colossus,” an excerpt of which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, was both a consequential literary figure and activist for Jewish causes. She spoke out against anti-Semitism and waves of pogroms. In her short 38 years, she produced some of the most recognized and relevant prose of the 20th century.

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BOUDICCA (aka Boudica, Boudicea, or Boadicea) is perhaps one of the least popularized revolt leaders in Roman history. Celtic queen of the Iceni people in the 1st century CE, Boudicca led a deleterious revolt against the Roman Empire—yes, that Roman Empire—in the year 60/61 CE. Her story has been primarily bequeathed to us by two distinctly male and Roman voices (Tacitus and Cassius Dio), neither of whom were present during the revolt. The intense inherent bias of her biographers notwithstanding, she was a fierce warrior, who fought to protect her lands and people from the tight grasp of Roman rule.

Elizabeth_Fry

ELIZABETH FRY earned her place on the British £5 note through her revolutionary prison reform advocacy and activism in the early 19th century. She kept extensive and revealing diaries throughout her life, but her best known writing came in the form of an exposé-style book entitled Prisons in Scotland and the North of England. Fry invited members of the British nobility to spend nights with her in prison to reveal the conditions and encourage political action and founded the Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate.

About your presenters:

ANNIE POLLAND is the director of the American Jewish Historical Society in New York and co-author of Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration.

CAROLINE KNAPP is a lover of the ancient world, languages, and ice cream. Unlike Boudicca, she has not spearheaded a revolt against an invading foreign army to protect her beloved homeland…yet…

LEIA SQUILLACE is a Virginia-born, Brooklyn-based theatre director, arts activist, criminal justice reform advocate, and baker.

Dead Ladies Show NYC #15

As you may know, our fearless DLS NYC leader Molly is having a baby, and handing off her duties to a new set of hosts each month. If you didn’t know: Surprise! Molly is having a baby! But even as new ladies are born, dead ladies continue to inspire and challenge us all, and so DLS continues.

In March, join HELEN O’HARE and MARY KATE SKEHAN to celebrate three women from the past: a legendary Broadway actress, the “mother of forensic science,” and a wildly inventive feminist science fiction writer.

You know the drill: 7–9pm in the Red Room at KGB Bar (85 E 4th Street, at Second Avenue). Doors will open a little after 6:30pm. Come all the way upstairs (two flights) and BYO food if you’re peckish!

Our NYC show is free to attend, ~ * but * ~ we do have a bar minimum to meet: please plan to buy a couple drinks to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB’s RED ROOM.

Elaine_Stritch_My_Sister_Eileen
ELAINE STRITCH (1925-2014) was an actress and singer known for her work on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in 1946 and continued to appear on stage and screen nearly all her life–most recently as Jack Donaghy’s mother on 30 Rock, a role for which she won an Emmy. Stritch is best known for her unforgettable performances in Stephen Sondheim musicals, particularly Company. She continues to be emulated–and occasionally parodied–in pop culture today, from The Simpsons to Ru Paul’s Drag Race.

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FRANCES GLESSNER LEE (1878-1962) is known as the “mother of forensic science.” She’s most famous for creating the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, 20 true crime scene dioramas recreated in minute detail at dollhouse scale, used to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” Eighteen are still in use today. Lee became the first female police captain in the United States, and also helped to establish the Department of Legal Medicine at Harvard. Her work revolutionized the emerging field of homicide investigation.

Joanna_Russ_obit
JOANNA RUSS (1937-2011) was a writer, academic, and radical socialist feminist. She is the author of works of science fiction, fantasy, and feminist literary criticism, including the polemic How to Supress Women’s Writing, the book-length study of modern feminism What Are We Fighting For?, and the utopian novel The Female Man.

About your presenters:
LAURA PITTENGER is a playwright and director living in Astoria. Her work has been seen at FringeNYC, Athena Theatre, Project Y, The Playwrights’ Center, The Tank, Brooklyn College’s GI60 Festival, The Sheen Center, and more.
DANIELLE DIETERICH is an editor at Penguin Random House, where she acquires thriller, suspense, and commercial women’s fiction.
B. D. MCCLAY is a writer and editor at The Hedgehog Review. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Outline, The Baffler, The Week, Commonweal, and more.

Dead Ladies Show #25

Our new season is built around outstanding Berlin writers who share stories of awe-inspiring women who’ve fascinated them and influenced their work. On February 11, show number 25 – our silver anniversary! – brings you three women who wrote radical things in difficult times: an eroticist, an anti-authoritarian, and an anarchist. Presented by the multi-talented writer and translator SASKIA VOGEL, Vogue model, journalist, teacher, activist, and writer ANNETT GRÖSCHNER, and your beloved co-host FLORIAN DUIJSENS. All held together by your other firm favorite KATY DERBYSHIRE. Come on up to the ACUD Studio for an evening of entertainment, inspiration, and intimate information.

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

Rut_Hillarp

RUT HILLARP was a Swedish Modernist poet and erotic genius (as her biographer put it). She was also an experimental filmmaker, photographer, teacher, diarist, and novelist. Born in 1914 to a hardware dealer and an evangelist mother, and dying by suicide in 2003, she’s been called a grande dame of the Swedish women’s movement. After a rich life of writing, traveling, dancing, and taking love and sex seriously while teaching languages to high schoolers, she was discovered by a new generation in 1991: her work exhibited at the Stockholm national gallery, asked to design album covers, she even had her poems set to pop music. One of her key themes was the difficulties of sexual relationships in a male-dominated society. Saskia Vogel is her translator into English.

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The writer HELGA M. NOVAK was born in Berlin and grew up in the GDR. In 1961 she moved to Iceland, where she married, had two children, and got divorced. She made cathode-ray tubes, salted herring, and carpets, but also travelled to France, Spain, and the USA. After returning to East Germany to study creative writing, she was stripped of her citizenship for distributing copies of her critical texts and exiled. Always an outsider, she wrote poetry criticizing the East German state from the left, then autobiographical novels and nature poems. Wanting to move back in 2004, Novak was considered an unemployed foreigner and was initially refused a German residence permit. She managed it in the end.

Emma_goldman_1919

EMMA GOLDMAN was an anarchist philosopher, activist, and writer. After emigrating from Russia to America at a young age in 1885, she helped plan a (failed) assassination, distributed information on birth control, and campaigned against conscription – until the Americans deported her to revolution-era Russia. Quickly disillusioned by its repression of independent thought, she left the Soviet Union in 1923 and wrote about the experience, as well as a two-volume autobiography. Her writing and lectures covered topics as undying as atheism, free speech, marriage, free love, and homosexuality. And yes, it’s “Red Emma” on that poster/mug/T-shirt saying: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution.” It’s not a direct quote, but it’s not wrong either.

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Podcast #29: Zora Neale Hurston

Episode 29 presents a giant of the Harlem Renaissance: writer, anthropologist and zombie finder Zora Neale Hurston!

Zora may be best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, but her love of adventure and willingness to re-write her own biography are sure to delight fans old and new.

Writer and scholar Fatin Abbas tells Zora’s tale from the stage in ACUD, and Dead Ladies Show co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins podcast producer and presenter Susan Stone to put things in motion.

Also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast. And you can find the transcript here.

Show notes:

You can read more about Zora’s remarkable hometown Eatonville here.

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Photograph of Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, & Jessie Fauset, 1927

Enjoy this rare fieldwork footage Zora shot, which a kind Youtuber has paired with recordings of her voice!

Cudjoe_Abache
Abache and Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis were among the last group of Africans forcibly transported to the United States aboard the slave ship Clotilde. Zora told Cudjoe’s life story in Barracoon, published only very recently.
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Zora’s photograph of “zombie” Felicia Felix-Mentor

The books Fatin recommends are these: Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd, and Zora’s own Dust Tracks on a Road. You can listen to more of her ethnographic recordings (and her singing!) here, and here’s that Lithub story about her role in the first Black baby doll.

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

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

Support for the Dead Ladies Show podcast comes from the Berliner Senat.

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Dead Ladies Show NYC #14

Happy New Year, Dead Lady fans! We at the Show are taking January to rest, refresh, and get ready for a HUMDINGER of a show in February: it’ll be second to NUN. That’s right—TWO NUNS (sort of…) and an “irascible” artist. Presented by an editor, a writer/translator, and a program officer at the IRC who is anything but irascible.

Plus a very special announcement…stay tuned! 🙂 🙂 🙂

You know the drill: Monday, February 3rd, 7–9pmin the Red Room at KGB Bar (85 E 4th Street, at Second Avenue). Doors will open a little after 6:30pm. Come all the way upstairs (two flights) and BYO food if you’re peckish.

Our NYC show is free to attend, ~ * but * ~ we do have a bar minimum to meet: please plan to buy a couple drinks to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB’s RED ROOM.

The_Book_of_Margery_Kempe,_Chapter_18_(excerpt)

MARGERY KEMPE (c. 1373–1438) was an itinerant Christian mystic and author of the first autobiography written in English. Crippled with symptoms of psychosis and insatiable sexual desires, but determined to become religiously devout, Kempe convinced her husband to agree to a celibate marriage. With her newfound freedom she took pilgrimages across Europe and the Middle East, making a (generally pretty bad) name for herself in the process. Prone to preaching (forbidden to women) and to impersonating nuns, she was eventually tried for heresy.

Retrato_de_Sor_Juana_Inés_de_la_Cruz_(Miguel_Cabrera)

JUANA INÉS DE LA CRUZ (1648–1695) was a Mexican writer, philosopher, composer, and nun who earned such sobriquets as “The Tenth Muse” and “The Mexican Phoenix.” Though theoretically cloistered, she hosted a popular salon in the nunnery that attracted many of Mexico’s contemporary intellectual luminaries. She wrote poetry, drama, comedy, and other works on topics ranging from religion to love to men’s hypocrisy. Because of her controversial views, which lead today’s scholars to consider her a proto-feminist, she faced censure right up until her death due to plague.

Photo_of_Hedda_Sterne

HEDDA STERNE (1910–2011) was a Romanian-born American artist who is most often associated with the Surrealist and Abstract expressionist movements, though her extensive career crossed many boundaries and she herself disliked the confinement of such labels. Always endeavoring to discover new worlds and modes of expression through her art, she experimented with a variety of different styles and materials over the years, describing her works as “in flux.” While this absence of a singular style contributed to a lack of notoriety and commercial success in her lifetime, in comparison to her (mostly) male peers, in recent years many have begun to re-examine this extraordinary woman whose life and art spanned and interacted with one of the most creative and tumultuous centuries of human existence.

About your presenters:

MORIAH SPECIALE is an editor in New York City.

MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER is a writer and translator based in New York City, where she also hosts a little thing called THE DEAD LADIES SHOW.

KIRI VAN LENGEN-WELTY works for the International Rescue Committee and is based in New York City. In her spare time she can be found doing freelance graphic design, singing in a choir, and scouting the streets for miniature dachshunds.

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.