Dead Ladies Show NYC #7

Lucky number seven! Also, a tale of two Flor(e/y)nces (and a Muriel). Please join us at the KGB Bar (on Labor Day, how appropriate) for the DLS NYC on Wednesday, May 1, from 7-9pm PER USUAL!

I am excited to welcome to the stage Victoria-sponge enthusiast KRISTINA MCCLENDON, well-meaning library absconder SHEILA ENRIGHT, and historical-conversational igniter DEBORAH STREAHLE to present—respectively—a radical Victorian reporter, a literary Dame (and we do mean Dame), and a powerful black feminist lawyer in pink sunglasses. All to be gently nudged along by your host, MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER.

Free admission; please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB.

Florence Dixie

Lady FLORENCE DIXIE (1855–1905) was a radical Victorian writer, adventurer, activist, and feminist. As the first female war correspondent to be appointed by a British newspaper, Dixie covered the ongoing conflict during the first Boer War. A prolific writer, she published books, articles, and essays describing her travels across South America and South Africa, adventure stories for children, and several works reflecting her commitment to women’s emancipation and other political causes.

Muriel Spark

Dame MURIEL SPARK was a poet, novelist, editor, and biographer. Born in Scotland in 1918, she moved to Africa at 19, only to flee the continent and her abusive marriage during WWII. Returning to England, she joined the intelligence service, and after the war became a secretary, trade writer, and literary editor, ultimately publishing her first book at the age of 39 after her conversion to Catholicism. Spark went on to write more than 20 novels, as well as poems, plays, biographies, essays, and a memoir – and is considered one of the most ingenious writers of the twentieth century.

Florynce Kennedy

Black feminist radical FLORYNCE KENNEDY (1916–2000) was known for her flamboyant activism, media savvy, and strategic lawyering on behalf of oppressed people. A leader in the Black Power movement and an influential second wave feminist, Kennedy’s witty and incisive critiques of the establishment cemented her reputation as “[t]he biggest, loudest and, indisputably, the rudest mouth on the battleground,” according to People magazine in 1974. Kennedy founded cross-movement coalitions, organized intersectional protests, and fought for justice in court on behalf of the Black Panthers and women’s reproductive autonomy—all while wearing her distinctive cowboy hat, pink sunglasses, and false eyelashes.

About your presenters:

KRISTINA MCCLENDON holds an MA in Victorian Studies from Birkbeck College, University of London and currently works at NYU. She has a room of her own in New York’s only nobly-named borough (Queens) and can usually be found perfecting her Victoria sponge.

SHEILA ENRIGHT is a writer/editor at Carnegie Corporation of New York. When not neglecting to return her library books, she can usually be found thrifting in the nearest Goodwill.

DEBORAH STREAHLE is currently a PhD student at Yale University where she studies the history of health care and alternative medicine in the U.S. Her goal is to spark conversations about neglected histories. One of her favorite Flo quotes is, “We’ve got to stop sucking and begin to bite.”

Dead Ladies Show NYC #6

Please join me for the sixth edition of the DLS NYC (whaaaatt?!? time flies when you’re giving new life to dead ladies!), on Wednesday, 10 April, from 7:00–9:00pm at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street).

This Show brings us a gender-bending actor, a controversial thinker, and a multitalented inventor. Presented by feminist PhD candidate DANIELLE DREES, fearless educator MONICA LEIER, and forward-thinking obituarist AMY PADNANI. Facilitated per usual by your friendly host, MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER.

Free admission; please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB.

Mary Frith

MARY FRITH / MOLL CUTPURSE (circa 1584–1659) is quite possibly the only woman to appear onstage in Shakespeare’s day. She broke the law by dressing as a man and performing in a public theatre when only men were allowed to be actors—and she was, in turn, immortalized in a play, a pulp fiction biography, and hundreds of years of research on gender, sexuality, and why women want to wear pants. In a time when few women had public voices and terms like “genderqueer” were still 400 years in the future, Frith thoroughly confused her contemporaries and loosened up gender a little for the rest of us.

Hannah Arendt

HANNAH ARENDT (1906–1975) was one of the greatest thinkers of her time…OR EVER. Though she studied philosophy, she rejected the title of philosopher and instead described herself as a political theorist, if even that. This nasty woman is best known for her coverage of the Nuremberg Trials and her controversial writing and teaching about concepts including power, violence, evil, and political action.

Bessie Blount Griffin

BESSIE BLOUNT GRIFFIN (1914–2009) was a nurse, wartime inventor and forensic handwriting analyst best known for inventing an early version of the feeding tube. It all started with one remarkable skill she took on as an act of defiance when she was 7: She taught herself to write with her teeth and her toes.

About your presenters:

DANIELLE DREES is a PhD candidate at Columbia University, where she studies performance, feminism, and labor, and a proud member of GWC-UAW 2110, a union for graduate workers.

MONICA LEIER is an educator in Brooklyn and incorporates Arendt’s teachings into her 5th grade History classes.

AMY PADNANI is an obituaries editor at the New York Times and the creator of the “Overlooked” series, which tells the stories of remarkable women (like Bessie) whose death was never noted by the newspaper.

 

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 NYC #5

We’re kicking off WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH in style with the DEAD LADIES SHOW!

This, our fifth go-round, will occur on Wednesday, 6 March, from 7:00-9:00pm at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street).

This time around, we’ll learn about the accomplishments of a Chinese revolutionary, one of the first attorneys of color in the USA, and the first woman of color in Congress. Presented by a dream team of three fifth-grade teachers who are ready to school the patriarchy: MELANIE SABROWSKE, HIAB DEBESSAI, and CLAIRE O’LAUGHLIN. As usual, there will also be a smattering of bad jokes told by your host, MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER.

Free admission; please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB.

Qiu Jin

QIU JIN (1875-1907) was a Chinese feminist, writer, and revolutionary. Throughout her short life, Qiu Jin fought relentlessly for the rights of women, daring to defy her country’s strict patriarchal norms.

Eunice Hunton Carter

EUNICE HUNTON CARTER (1899-1970) was an American lawyer and United Nations committee member. One of the first attorneys of color in the United States, Carter built the case for and developed the strategy to successfully convict infamous mafia kingpin “Lucky” Luciano.

Shirley Chisholm

SHIRLEY CHISHOLM (1924–2005) was an educator, politician and author. A lifelong advocate for the rights of women, children and people of color, she was the first woman of color in Congress—holding her seat as representative from the 12th district of New York for seven terms. She was also the first person of color to run for president of the United States from either of the two major political parties, and the first woman to run as a Democrat.

Last but not least, a quick word about your presenters:

MELANIE SABROWSKE is a middle-school teacher from Voluntown, Connecticut.

HIAB DEBESSAI is an Eritrean-American middle-school teacher, born and raised in Haslett, Michigan.

CLAIRE O’LAUGHLIN is also an educator in Brooklyn and aspires to be like Chisholm in other ways, too, particularly “unbought and unbossed.”

 

Dead Ladies Show NYC #4

What better way to celebrate GALentine’s Day than by celebrating some fascinating, deceased dames!?

The fourth edition of the DEAD LADIES SHOW in NYC draws nigh: it will take place on Wednesday, 13 February, as usual from 7:00-9:00pm at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street).

Free admission; please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB.

Ida M Tarbell

IDA M. TARBELL, a pioneering investigative journalist, biographer, magazine editor, and lecturer, rose to fame in the early 20th century through her meticulous reporting and fearless pursuit of the truth. She took on John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company – at the time the largest oil refinery in the world – and exposed it as an illegal monopoly, leading to its dissolution. Throughout her lifetime, she authored twenty books, lectured in forty-eight states, and served on two Presidential committees. Perplexingly, this groundbreaking woman was also an outspoken anti-suffragette.

Martha Graham

MARTHA GRAHAM is arguably the single most important figure in American modern dance. Born in 1894, she pioneered a movement style, based on the principle of contraction and release, that is regarded as the first codified modern dance technique. She choreographed a total of 181 dances, collaborating with the likes of composer Aaron Copland and sculptor Isamu Noguchi, addressing social, political, and psychological themes, and consistently portraying powerful women, both mythical and historical. The first dancer to perform at the White House and travel as a cultural ambassador, her influence is evident in cultural icons as wide-ranging as Merce Cunningham and Madonna.

Doreen Valiente

Long before Instagram hyped witchcraft as aesthetic and feminist, DOREEN VALIENTE (1922-99) paved the way. Lauded as the Mother of Modern Witchcraft, she invigorated the Wiccan ‘revival’ in 1950s England and worked to make the defining texts of the religion more sacred and beautiful. Many key spells of Gardnerian Wicca benefit from her serious revisions. She joined and created several covens and became a witch historian in order to better understand and dispell misconceptions about Wicca. Doreen was a complicated and often contradictory woman whose struggles underpin much of the problems facing Wicca today.

Last but not least, a quick word about your presenters:

JENNIE YOUNG CARR is a merchandise planner (aka Excel geek) and amateur history buff.

NINA STOLLER-LINDSEY is an arts-focused writer and content strategist. She’s written about high art, popular culture, and everything in between for Quartz, The Atlantic, Forbes, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Thrillist, Refinery29, and Mic. A former modern dancer-choreographer, she’s interested in bringing the arts to more diverse audiences and currently runs social media for TodayTix, a global ticketing platform connecting people to live performances around the world.
CLAIRE CARROLL is a writer and marketer from the Hudson Valley. As practicing herbalist and magical realist, she cares deeply about the texts and myths that underpin faith.

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.

Dead Ladies Show NYC #3

I am very pleased to present the third edition of the DEAD LADIES SHOW in NYC, coming at you on Wednesday, 2 January, from 7:00-9:00pm at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street).

We’ll be kicking off the New Year in style, with presentations about a radical suffragist, a forward-thinking sculptor, and a former sex worker turned activist. Presented by socialist feminist biologist ALEXANDRA WALLING, female-artist-focused critic HALL W. ROCKEFELLER, and editor extraordinaire BRIA SANDFORD, with the occasional interjection by your host, MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN. Join us as we greet 2019 with a dose of Dead Ladies—good for the body and soul.

Free admission; please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB.

Sylvia Pankhurst

SYLVIA PANKHURST was an artist, suffragette, communist, anti-fascist, pacifist, newspaper editor, and tireless crusader for justice. A co-founder of the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, she soon abandoned the bourgeois organization to focus on poor, working women and advocate for pacifism during WWI; after the war, she became a communist and avowed anti-fascist. In 1944, Pankhurst helped found Ethiopia’s first teaching hospital, and she later moved to the country as a guest of the Emperor. When she died in 1960, she was given a state funeral and burial in Addis Ababa’s Holy Trinity church—the only foreigner ever awarded such an honor.

Eva Hesse

Artist EVA HESSE survived the Holocaust, but succumbed to brain cancer thirty-one years later, which is the textbook definition of unfair. Despite this, she made more of her thirty-four years on Earth than most people make of lifetimes double that length. She changed the way art is made forever (how many people can say that?), pioneering the movement that would become known as post-minimalism. She made simple sculptures whose structures belied the chaos within, captivating the art world by the time she was in her late twenties. Eva Hesse may be the most important sculptor of the 20th century. (No, this writer does not consider Duchamp a sculptor, and yes, she did consider Rodin for this distinction.)

Andrea Dworkin

Radical feminist ANDREA DWORKIN is somewhat inaccurately famous for claiming, “all sex is rape,” but the arguments she actually made in the 1970s-1990s were no less controversial. When she crusaded against male dominance and domestic violence in the 1970s through 1990s, conservatives mocked her for being anti-man. When she campaigned unsuccessfully against pornography, liberals vilified her as puritanical and prudish. Yet Dworkin would not be silenced. Drawing on her personal experience as a sex worker and as a survivor of rape, she made it her business to speak, even to shout, on behalf of all abused women in a way that still echoes today.

Last but not least, a quick word about your presenters:

ALEXANDRA WALLING is a PhD student in Comparative Biology, where she studies microbial evolution. When she is not pursuing her studies, she organizes with the Socialist Feminist Working Group of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America.

HALL W. ROCKEFELLER is an art historian and critic. She is the founder of less than half, a website that covers female artists in New York City, including exhibition reviews and interviews with practicing female artists. Visit lessthanhalf.org to subscribe to the newsletter.
BRIA SANDFORD is an editor at Penguin Random House.

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.

1934

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.