Dead Ladies Show #23

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

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

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

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

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BEBE BARRON was a bohemian, composer, and electronic music pioneer. She and her husband Louis worked avant-garde art-makers like John Cage and Maya Deren, and hung out with Anais Nin, Henry Miller, Joseph Campbell, and more. The pair is credited with inventing the tape loop, and possibly the audio book. It’s certainly the case that they composed and created the first electronic music — or electro-acoustic — feature film soundtrack. Electronic music as we know it would not exist without Bebe, nor would the sounds we associate with outer space.

Dead Ladies Show NYC #11

After a fabulous show last night, we’re squarely into the second year of DLS NYC, and it feels very back-to-school; the air is getting crisp (at least theoretically), the leaves will soon be turning, and lemonades are about to give way to PSLs. Here at the DLS, we’re all about autumn—especially as a great excuse to learn about some Dead Ladies with an extra special connection to the “dead” part.

Our eleventh show will take place on Wednesday, October 2, from 7–9pm in the Red Room at the KGB Bar (85 E 4th Street, at Second Ave). Doors will open a little after 6:30pm. Come all the way upstairs (two flights up the inside staircase). You’re welcome to bring outside food if you wish.

This edition will be a spooky affair featuring a literary horror queen, a master psychic debunker, and a dead lady taxidermist, presented (respectively) by a literary grammar queen, a dynamic duo of master podcasters, and a live lady taxidermist (!). Lovingly hosted, as usual, by Molly O’Laughlin Kemper.

Free admission, but we do have a bar minimum to meet: please plan to buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB’s RED ROOM.

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MARTHA MAXWELL (1831–1881) was a taxidermist, naturalist, and artist. On the outside, she was tough as nails and could withstand rugged, unforgiving outdoor life on collection expeditions, but inside, she was warm and loving, supporting her family by trying to build an independent career, and encouraging museums to use taxidermy as a tool for public awareness and wildlife conservation. She broke boundaries by being one of the only women with a solo exhibition at the Philadelphia Centennial, where she titled her massive diorama installation featuring over 1000 artfully preserved animals, ranging in size from stags to squirrels, “Woman’s Work.”

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ROSE MACKENBERG (1892–1968) was an investigator who sought to uncover fraudulent mediums. As chief of a team of undercover investigators in the 1920s, she worked for Harry Houdini. After his death, Rose continued to investigate spiritualist frauds for over 20 years and was known as an expert on the subject. She testified in court cases and before Congress, and was also interviewed in national magazines and on television.

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SHIRLEY JACKSON (1916–1965) was a writer of novels, memoirs, and short stories, most famously “The Lottery.” She re-envisioned the genres of horror and the supernatural, creating stories that explored the mundane horrors of womanhood and the fears of women. In her life, she was a celebrated if polarizing writer, a sometimes unhappy wife and mother, an esteemed member of literary circles and an outsider in her small town, and someone who believed in the power of her works to express what she wanted to say.

About your presenters:

DIVYA ANANTHARAMAN is an award-winning taxidermist based in New York City. Her work is driven by a passion for wildlife conservation, and seeks to combine the demonstrative aspect of scientific presentation with the symbolic, introspective nature of art. Her clients include celebrities, museums, galleries, and everyday people who love nature. Learn more at gothamtaxidermy.com

DANA LEWIS is a high school English teacher in Queens. In addition to teaching, she also runs two clubs there: True Crime and Girls Empowerment, interests that highly coordinate with the story of her chosen Dead Lady.

NICOLE SARANIERO is a writer for UntappedCities.com and she manages the Untapped Cities Insider program which takes members behind-the-scenes of NYC’s most exciting and off-limits locations. She is a lover of old buildings, ghost stories, and lantern guided cemetery tours.

KRISTA AHLBERG is a copyeditor at Penguin Young Readers, who loves grammar and ghosts in equal measure. Though a longtime fan of Shirley Jackson, she is too scared to watch the new Haunting of Hill House show, so don’t try to talk to her about it, sorry.

Dead Ladies Show NYC #10

Can you believe that it has been nearly a year since the first Dead Ladies Show NYC took the city by storm? Me neither! But it’s true!

This upcoming show, our tenth in New York, will take place on Wednesday, September 4, from 7pm to 9pm in the Red Room at the KGB Bar (85 E 4th Street). Doors will open a little after 6:30pm. Come all the way upstairs (two flights up the inside staircase). You’re welcome to bring outside food if you wish.

Our anniversary show will highlight a visionary mystic who advanced music, philosophy, and science; an unassuming grandma who became an unlikely trailblazer; and a jazz musician who transcended genre and period. Presented by an exceptional educator, a driven growth director, and—returning to the stage—yours truly.

Free admission: please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB’s RED ROOM.

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HILDEGARD VON BINGEN (1098–1179) was a Benedictine abbess from Germany well known for her Christian mysticism, musical compositions, visions, philosophical writings, and extensive knowledge on countless topics. Although complications arose during her formal canonization, most branches of the Roman Catholic church recognize her as a saint and she was recently named a Doctor of the Church. While she nominally belittled herself and women in general as being “the weaker sex,” this self-effacing approach worked to her advantage, giving her a place at the table that would have been impossible to access otherwise.

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EMMA GATEWOOD (1887–1973) was a pioneering hiker and outdoorswoman—but before that, she was a grandma. In 1955, at the age of 67, “Grandma Gatewood” set out from her Ohio home with Keds, a shower curtain, and an army blanket. She told her grown children she was “going for a walk”—and ultimately became the first woman to solo hike the full Appalachian Trail.

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MARY LOU WILLIAMS (1910–1981) was a musician, composer, arranger, and bandleader who, though primarily associated with jazz music, transcended genre. By the age of 6, she was already helping to support her family as a pianist; later in life, she performed with and wrote for many famous jazz musicians, including Duke Ellington, who described her thus: “Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her writing and performing have always been a little ahead…her music maintains a quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul.”

About your presenters:

ELLIE CAMPISANO works with Signet Education as an instructional coach, teacher, and engagement manager. She’s been intrigued by Hildegard von Bingen since college, when she had the opportunity to study her insightful theological writings and enrapturing musical compositions simultaneously.

MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER is a writer and translator living in New York City, where she runs a little show about dead ladies.

KATIE DONLEY works in Growth at GiveDirectly in New York. You can otherwise find her at the 6&B Community Garden, or running around Prospect Park.

Dead Ladies Show NYC #9

The ninth edition of DLS NYC is upon us—we’ll be in the Red Room again, July 9th, 7–9pm, upstairs from our former location at the KGB Bar (85 E 4th St). NB, we are also having this on a Tuesday, so those of you with standing Pilates dates on Wednesday nights can finally make it.

Your Pilates class is on Tuesdays? Never fear, you can still partake of Dead Ladies via the ~podcast~ produced in Berlin. Episode #23 features the podcast’s first-ever Ladies from the NYC show—represent!!!

Our fabulous line-up for July includes a resistance fighter, an activist for the environment and for humanity, and an influential urban planner. Presented, respectively, by an art historian-slash-curator, an editor-slash-writer, and a writing-addicted façade designer.
Free admission: please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB’s RED ROOM.

Sophie Scholl

SOPHIE SCHOLL (1922–1943): Executed February 22, 1943. Her crime? Treason against the Third Reich. Although originally a member of the Hitler Youth group, Scholl discovered the truth of the atrocities that the Nazis committed against the Jews and other marginalized groups and helped found the resistance group the White Rose with her brother and a few of their peers. It is said that some of her last words were: “…Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”

Jane Jacobs
JANE JACOBS (1916–2006) was possibly the most important urban thinker of the 20th century. Her ideas about urban planning, her advocacy for foot people, and her vivid analysis of the symphony of the sidewalks—fought out in articles, books, and activism—shifted the course of urban planning in her home towns of New York, Toronto, and beyond.

Wangari Maathai
WANGARI MAATHAI (1940–2011) was a Kenyan environmentalist and activist for women’s rights and democracy, and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, which has planted over 50 million trees in Kenya and inspired similar movements in other African countries.

About your presenters:

EMILY KNAPP is an art historian and independent curator based in NYC.

NICOLAS KEMPER works for an architectural engineering consultancy in Queens and writes, primarily about architecture.

ELIZA ROCKEFELLER is an editor at Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.

Podcast #24: Hedy Lamarr

Episode 24 comes fresh from Berlin, where our writer and translation friend Isabel Cole tells us about glamorous Hollywood star-slash-inventor Hedy Lamarr.  Recorded live at ACUD, and produced and presented by Susan Stone in June 2019.

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

Show notes & pics:

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A young Hedy, then still Hedwig Kiesler

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An ecstatic Hedy

Hedy in hats

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Lamarr and Gable in Comrade X

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Hedy’s patent

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With mom and Victor Mature

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Liquid ecstasy

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Hedy’s grave site in Vienna

If you’d like to read her ghostwritten autobiography Ecstasy and Me, you can buy it online. For more online fun, how about the less-racy-than-you-might-expect movie Ecstasy ? Especially good for horse enthusiasts.

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

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode after a short summer break.

Dead Ladies Show #22

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

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


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

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

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

Dead Ladies Show NYC #8

You are cordially invited to the eighth DLS NYC, now on a new day and in a slightly different location!!!!!!!!!!

Please join us in the RED ROOM at the KGB Bar on MONDAY, June 3, from 7–9pm.

The Red Room is one floor up from our previous location; it is bigger, for your viewing pleasure! More space for you and your friends! Monday is two days before our usual day of Wednesday!

You knew this day was coming—I’ll be taking the stage with a presentation of my own, in addition to hosting! In addition to *ahem* myself, I am very pleased to be joined by numbers gal extraordinaire LIZ KRANE and artistic architect DARBY KLINE. We will respectively be presenting a civil rights pioneer, the original Tony (just in time for the Tony Awards), and a transformative textile artist.

Free admission: please buy a drink or two to ensure the future of DLS NYC at KGB’s RED ROOM.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER (1825–1911) was one of the most prominent African-American intellectuals of the nineteenth century, writing poetry and speaking publicly against slavery alongside such famous names as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frederick Douglass. After abolition, her commitment to equal rights, rather than prioritizing women’s rights (read: middle-class white women’s rights), put her at odds with Stanton and Anthony. Her view: “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.”

Antoinette Perry

ANTOINETTE PERRY (1888–1946) was a stage actress, director, and producer; an activist and wartime leader; and the namesake of The Tony Awards. Called to the theatre, she rejected societal expectations and brushed aside health setbacks to become the first successful female director in the industry and devote her life to the theatre’s community and future. She served as the president of the National Experimental Theatre, financed the work of new playwrights, operated the Stage Door Canteen, and founded the Theatre Wing of Allied Relief, which survives to this day as the American Theatre Wing.

Anni Albers

ANNI ALBERS (1899–1994) quietly transformed the ancient and ubiquitous craft of weaving into a category of fine art. Informed by her studies at The Bauhaus School and her travels throughout Mexico and South America, Anni experimented on the loom using raw materials and a profound structural understanding of textiles as her guide. In 1949, she became the first textile artist to have a solo show at MoMA. Her expertise in theory and history led Anni to link thinking and making in her teaching, drawing, and writing.

About your presenters:

MOLLY O’LAUGHLIN KEMPER is a writer, translator, and editor. She hosts a little thing called the DEAD LADIES SHOW each month in New York City—maybe you’ve heard of it?

LIZ KRANE works with Galbraith + Company as a production accountant for Broadway and touring shows. Much like her Dead Lady, Antoinette Perry, she finds relaxation in numbers.

DARBY KLINE is an architect who experiments through textiles. She seeks inspiration from courageous women past and present, especially those who use their design education in non-traditional ways.

Podcast #23: Bessie Blount & Flo Kennedy

Episode 23 is our first from New York City! It showcases two incredible black women who made major achievements in their fields. First off, journalist Amy Padnani tells us about the nurse, wartime inventor, and handwriting analyst Bessie Blount, followed by researcher Deborah Streahle on the radical feminist lawyer Florynce “Flo” Kennedy. Recorded live at KGB’s Red Room, and produced and presented by Susan Stone in May 2019.

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

Show notes & pics:

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A young Bessie Blount, having taught herself to write with her feet and her mouth.

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And here she is passing on that knowledge. Elmira Advertiser, April 24, 1958

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Bessie’s invention, as patented in 1951

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As a handwriting analyst in later life. The Daily Journal

You can read Amy Padnani’s obituary for Bessie Blount in the New York TimesOverlooked section, which Amy herself established. We thoroughly approve of this new initiative.

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And on to Florynce “Flo” Kennedy.

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Early lawyer years, from her book (see below)

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A couple of our favorite pics showing Flo’s confident style

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Flo Kennedy at the N.O.W. march in 1972. Photo by Bettye Lane, courtesy of Schlesinger Library

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For further reading, there’s Kennedy’s autobiography with the great title Color Me Flo. My Hard Life and Good Times. Deborah also highly recommends Sherrie M. Randolph’s Florynce “Flo” Kennedy. The Life of a Black Feminist Radical.

And it looks like there may be a documentary in the works, directed by Keirdra Bahruth.

Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Special thanks to Molly O’Laughlin Kemper for taking the Dead Ladies Show to New York City… and running with it!

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode in June.

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.”

Podcast #22: Josephine Baker

Episode 22 features our beloved co-host Florian Duijsens giving us the low-down on the multi-talented entertainer Josephine Baker. Recorded live at ACUD, and produced and presented by Susan Stone in April 2019.

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

Show notes & pics:

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A very young “Tumpie”

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Josephine looking glamorous

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We couldn’t very well not share this one…

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Wartime heroine in Free French uniform

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Speaking at the March on Washington in 1963: “I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. And much more. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad. And when I get mad, you know that I open my big mouth. And then look out, ’cause when Josephine opens her mouth, they hear it all over the world…”

For more gorgeous pics, check out this fancy spread in UK Vogue.

Listen to Josephine singing in French in 1953. Or watch her dancing and acting in the 1935 French film Princess Tam Tam, or clowning and Charleston-ing.

Fancy a trip to France? You can visit her chateau! Or go on a walking tour just outside Paris!

For further reading, Florian recommends two titles:

Jean-Claude Baker’s Josephine: The Hungry Heart, written with Chris Chase, and Josephine Baker and the Rainbow Tribe, by Matthew Pratt Guterl.

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

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode in May.