Podcast #49: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

We kick off 2022 with an episode devoted to a woman famed for her wit and beauty, and later for her status as a sort of early inoculation influencer. Her tale is told by DLS co-founder and devoted traveler, Florian Duijsens.

English aristocrat Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was raised to keep her opinions to herself, be it at home or in the King’s court, but she travelled widely, published secretly, and convinced many to take important steps that saved lives. When her husband became the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1716, she accompanied him to Constantinople. Gaining access to female spaces in Turkey, she witnessed smallpox inoculations there and had her son immunized in the same way, using a small sample of the live virus that had killed her brother and caused severe scarring to her own face. The principle was adapted into what we now know as vaccination. Lady Mary later left her husband behind in England after falling for an Italian count, only returning after she was widowed. She wrote poetry, essays, and copious letters, many of which were published after her death, encouraging other ladies to travel as she had done.

DLS other co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins producer Susan Stone to introduce the featured Dead Lady. 

Continue reading “Podcast #49: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu”

Dead Ladies Show Deutsch: La Malinche Bonus-Episode

Mal was anderes: ab und zu produzieren wir außerhalb der Reihe eine deutschsprachige Podcastepisode! Diesmal erzählen Aurélie Maurin und Michael Ebmeyer anlässlich des Translationale-Festivals von einer ehemaligen Übersetzerin, die sagenumwobene La Malinche. Immer noch eine machtvolle Ikone in Mexiko, La Malinche war die versklavte Dolmetscherin zwischen dem spanischen Konquistador Hernán Cortés und den Menschen, die er zu unterwerfen suchte.

Der Vortrag basiert auf einer Performance von Aurélie Maurin und Maria Hummitzsch.

Continue reading “Dead Ladies Show Deutsch: La Malinche Bonus-Episode”

Podcast #48: Zaha Hadid

In our last episode of 2021, The DLS team of Susan Stone, Katy Derbyshire, and Florian Duijsens all come together to clink glasses of bubbly, and discuss our favorite Dead Lady news of the year.

Plus, DLS Producer and journalist Susan Stone presents our featured Dead Lady, architect Zaha Hadid.  Born in Baghdad, Zaha started her creative life early, designing her own clothes and furniture at the age of 7 or 8.  She studied at, then taught at, the Architectural Association School in London, where she honed her boundary-breaking skills and unmatchable style.

Both life and her designs threw a series of curves her way, but she excelled and inspired, becoming the first woman to with the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the Nobel Prize for architecture, as well as many more accolades and contracts, eventually designing everything from schools to shoes. Along the way she faced notable sexism and racism as one of few women and Arabs in the field. But she wowed critics, and created some of the most incredible buildings the world has ever seen before her death at the age of 65 in 2016.

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

Show notes:

Continue reading “Podcast #48: Zaha Hadid”

Podcast #47: Milena Jesenská

In this edition of the Dead Ladies Show Podcast, DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire brings you the story of Milena Jesenská live from the stage of the Berlin translation festival Translationale, held at the Collegium Hungaricum. 

A journalist, writer, editor and translator, Milena Jesenská is often simply called “Kafka’s Milena” for her connection to the famous writer. But her life and work deserve far more attention. 

Born in Prague in the former Austria-Hungary, now Czech Republic, Milena Jesenská straddled cultures and languages, politics and ideologies. As part of an underground resistance, she helped many refugees to escape the dangers of National Socialism, but was captured by the Gestapo and died in a concentration camp in Germany. 

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

Show Notes:

Continue reading “Podcast #47: Milena Jesenská”

Podcast #46: Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

In this edition of the Dead Ladies Show Podcast, DLS co-founder Florian Duijsens introduces us to the eccentric Dada artist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. An eternally eclectic, German-born New Yorker, the Baroness was known for living life as a work of art, wearing a collage of found items, from tin cans to postage stamps to live birds, seducing almost everyone she met, and creating mind-blowing poetry and sculptures, yet never making any money off them. These days, she deserves some reclaimed recognition for creating the found art genre known as readymades, including a particular infamous sculpture credited to French artist Marcel Duchamp (or Marcel Dushit, as the Baroness called him.)

DLS other co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins producer/host Susan Stone to introduce the show, which was recorded in front of a live audience of enthusiastic college students as part of Bard College Berlin‘s student-organized Pankumenta festival back in 2019.

**This episode contains brief mentions of suicide and suicide attempts as well as some humorous profanity**

Also available on SpotifyApple PodcastsRadioPublicPocket CastsStitcherGoogle Podcasts, and Acast.


Continue reading “Podcast #46: Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven”

Podcast #45: Nana Yaa Asantewaa

In the first episode of our fifth podcast season, you’ll hear the Berlin-based British-Ghanaian author and political activist Sharon Dodua Otoo talking about her favourite woman who ever lived: Nana Yaa Asantewaa. This Asante queen led the 1900 war against British colonialism in present-day Ghana. When the British governor demanded the kingdom’s emblem of power, the Golden Stool, Nana Yaa Asantewaa encouraged the Asante government to fight back through a powerful speech, and was chosen to head an army of 5000 at the age of sixty.

Sharon gives us all the context of who, what, where and when – and tells us how important Nana Yaa Asantewaa is as a role model for her and many others. DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins Susan Stone to introduce this fascinating talk.

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

You can read the transcript here.


The Golden Stool
Statue showing the Golden Stool in Ghana

There aren’t many photos of Nana Yaa Asantewaa, but there’s this:

Not actually Nana Yaa Asantewaa, but the image most commonly associated with her

Sharon mentions two key books:

If you’d like to read Sharon’s own books in German or English, there are plenty to choose from.

Here’s where to watch Vanessa Danso’s The Legendary Nana Yaa Asantewaa. Or you could defeat the colonial masters guided by the queen herself in a live-action game, from the safety of your own home.

To finish off, here’s the school named after her, part of an impressive legacy.

Yaa Asantewaa Girls’ Senior High School, Kumasi

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Thanks for listening!

We’ll be back with a new episode in October.

Podcast #44: Irmgard Keun

In this episode of the podcast, DLS co-founder Katy Derbyshire introduces us to daring German writer Irmgard Keun. As an ingenue, Irmgard’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. It’s a bit of Babylon Berlin meets Cabaret, perhaps.

Irmgard Keun is also one of the original Dead Ladies (along with Dorothy Parker) that sparked the creation of the Dead Ladies Show in the first place!

Our other DLS co-creator Florian Duijsens joins podcast producer and host Susan Stone for the introducing duties in our last episode of DLSP Season Four!

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


Irmgard looking dashing
Plaque marking where (and which actual year) she was born in Berlin
Young Irmgard
Irmgard basking in her big fur coat
Brigitte Helm in the film version of Gilgi, Eine von uns
and Helm in Metropolis
Stuck in Ostend with Joseph Roth
and free again in Nice
Reports of Irmgard’s death were greatly exaggerated
Irmgard’s rather intense interior in Cologne
Released from hospital!
And at the height of the Keunissance in the film version of After Midnight
Channel this energy next time someone tries to get you to work for free

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Thanks for listening!

We’ll be back with a new season and new episode in September.

Podcast #43: Bebe Barron

This episode presents a first: our presenter (our very own Susan Stone!) actually met the lady in question. 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.

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


A real reel-to-reel recorder
Anaïs Nin, and you can find out more about their friendship in this interview.
An excerpt from Anaïs Nin’s House of Incest audiobook as produced and recorded by the Barrons. You can order a CD copy here.
Louis & Bebe, bohemians
Louis & Bebe, professionals
The sole surviving copy of Bells of Atlantis
Kirk Douglas, Vincente Minnelli, Lana Turner, and Dore Schary, on the set of The Bad and the Beautiful
An excerpt from Forbidden Planet, with gloriously bleepy sound effects from the Barrons
If you try this out, let us know if it works!
Bebe in later years
Bebe and her husband Leonard Neubauer in 2005, picture by Susan Stone
And you can watch the new doc on Bebe and the other electronic pioneers, Sisters With Transistors, here.

You can still hear Susan’s NPR story on Bebe from 2005 here. Our theme music is not by Bebe, but “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Thanks for listening!

Podcast #42: Emily Hahn

Episode 42 is all about the American writer and journalist Emily Hahn, also known as Mickey.

She qualified as a mining engineer, wrote greeting-card copy, travelled the world and authored 54 books and more than 200 articles and short stories. Aside from that, she led an unconventional private life and kept a number of different monkeys. Hear all about her from our co-founder Florian Duijsens, recorded at Berlin’s ACUD Studio in April 2019.

Show notes:

A young Emily (back row, second right) with her family
Emily’s first book
Emily’s second book was a little different, a rather censored memoir of her year in Africa.
Followed by a novelized story of local women suffering at the hands of white men.
One of Victor Sassoon’s tamer photos
Poet Shao Xunmei
On returning to the USA
Carola’s father Charles Boxer joins the family.

If you’d like to find out more, Florian recommends two biographies:

Ken Cuthbertson’s Nobody Said Not to Go and Taras Grescoe’s Shanghai Grand.

Taras Grescoe also authored this fascinating New Yorker story about the time Emily was taken for a spy.

And here’s daughter Carola Boxer Vecchio on Advanced Style…

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

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month!

Podcast #41: Annette von Droste-Hülshoff

In this episode, Anneke Lubkowitz introduces us to the brilliant and strange 19th-century writer and poet Annette von Droste-Hülshoff. This Dead Lady was a Lady in the literal sense – she was born into nobility, and the life her family expected for her was far different from the one she led. Choosing the male occupation of poet, and the unladylike hobby of fossil collecting, nature devotee Annette could often be found wandering the muddy moors or writing away in a turret. Her ahead-of-her-time way with verse included timeless poems and a work of gothic fiction considered by some to be one of the first murder mysteries.

Via Zoom from the bright green rooms of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s former home Haus Ruschhaus, Anneke also reads some newly translated poems from Droste’s collections (thanks to the translators: Shane Anderson, Daniel Falb, Monika Rinck, and Annie Rutherford!).

Anneke live from Annette’s study, Katy and Florian smiling from their homes in Berlin

This show was created in collaboration with StAnza, Scotland’s International Poetry Festival, with help from the Burg Hülshoff Center for Literature. Thanks to both!

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


Gazing at us from one side of the 20 DM note
Burg Hülshoff on a sunny day
Young Annette
Some of her favorite fossils
The Bökerhof, drawn by Annette herself. Read Karen Duve’s well-researched novel Fräulein Nette’s kurzer Sommer or Barbara Beuys’ excellent biography to learn what happened here.
The Rüschhaus
Her “snail’s shell”
Casper David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818)
Annette at 41, portrait by Johann Joseph Sprick, 1838
Annette in her garret overlooking Lake Constance
Daguerrotype from 1845

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

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode next month!