Dead Ladies Show NYC #22

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

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


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

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

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


Your presenters:

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

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

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

Dead Ladies NYC #21

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


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

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

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


Your presenters:

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

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

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

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 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.

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 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”

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.