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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Podcast #20: Anna May Wong

Our 20th episode features our beloved co-host Florian Duijsens spilling the details on Hollywood actress and Berlin favourite Anna May Wong. Recorded live at ACUD as part of our series on dead Berlin ladies, and produced and presented by Susan Stone in February 2019.

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

Show Notes Continue reading “Podcast #20: Anna May Wong”

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.

Podcast #19: Constance Barnicoat & Irihapeti Ramsden

This time we have two guest presenters from New Zealand, recorded live at an edition of the Dead Ladies Show presented as part of LitCrawl Wellington, which was produced by Andrew Laking and Claire Mabey of Pirate and Queen. First, renegade historian Jessie Bray Sharpin talks about pioneering mountaineer and journalist Constance Barnicoat. And then we have playwright, poet, broadcaster, book reviewer & theatre critic Maraea Rakuraku telling us about Dr Irihapeti Ramsden, a Māori nurse, writer, educator & anthropologist.

All put together by producer and presenter Susan Stone in January 2019.

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

Show notes

Here are our two impressive presenters, Jessie Bray Sharpin (left) and Maraea Rakuraku.

And here’s a photo of Constance to start us off:

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(Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 22989)

And here’s her rather lamentable death notice:

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She does have a mountain (or three) named after her, though, and here’s one of the New Zealand ones looking lovely:

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Here’s a link to the second most badass photo ever taken in New Zealand (warning: no dead ladies featured).

And here’s Constance on the cover of a book, Lady Travellers. The Tourists of Early New Zealand by Bee Dawson:
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And now to Irihapeti Ramsden:

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Read an obituary in the New Zealand Herald.

You can also read the Booker Prize-winning novel The Bone People, by Keri Hulme, which Dr. Ramsden published in the first place as part of the feminist collective Spiral.

Here’s more about that story. It’s pretty darn impressive.

Maraea provided us with a little background about Captain Cook, who she speaks about in her talk:

Indigenous Māori and indeed most of the Pacific, have a conflicted relationship with British Explorer, Captain James Cook (1728-1779) credited (still) with having ‘discovered’, in 1769, populated for centuries by Polynesians – Aotearoa/New Zealand. This voyage and the two that followed, in (1772-1775) and (1776-1779) were precursors to colonisation, that would overwhelm Indigenous less than 70 years later and lead to the signing of The Declaration of Independence in 1835 followed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) in 1840. These agreements reinforced the sovereignty and rights of the Indigenous peoples, who at the time were the majority peoples. Introduced disease, combined with the systematic economic, social and spiritual dismantling of cultural systems had a devastating impact upon the Indigenous population, which is still felt to this day.

And here’s a translation of her opening words:

Through my mother, I am Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa
Through my father, Maungapōhatu is my mountain
Tauranga, is my river
Ngāti Rere is my hapu,
Tūhoe is my tribe,
I am Maraea Rakuraku
Greetings to you all.

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

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

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.

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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 #17: Ada Lovelace

Part 3 of our 4-part FRANKENFRAUEN miniseries, produced by Susan Stone in December 2018.

Professor Laura Scuriatti of Bard College Berlin presents the story of Ada Lovelace, accomplished mathematician. She fits into the Frankenstein puzzle by being the only legitimate child of Lord Byron, who was present at the story’s inception. But of course she achieved a whole lot without ever really meeting him. With a live intro from the Dead Ladies Show at the ACUD Studio.

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

Show notes:

Here’s Ada in a little sparkly number, painted by Margaret Sarah Carpenter in 1836.

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Here’s a model Babbage made of the Analytical Engine that he and Ada worked towards, on display in London’s Science Museum.

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And a sketch of the full ballroom-sized thing, never made in real life:

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Laura recommends three great books to find out more about Ada: James Essinger’s Ada’s Algorithm; a collection of Ada’s own writing in the dOCUMENTA series 100 Notes – 100 Thoughts; and the graphic novel The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sidney Padua:

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Thanks for listening! Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Check out parts 1, 2 & 4 of our FRANKENFRAUEN miniseries for 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.

Podcast #15: Mary Wollstonecraft

Part 1 of our 4-part special FRANKENFRAUEN miniseries, produced in December 2018 by Susan Stone.

Your beloved DLS co-host, translator extraordinaire Katy Derbyshire, gives us the low-down on proto-feminist and mother of Mary Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. With lots of live atmo from the stage presentation.

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

Show notes

Here’s Mary, painted by John Opie. The studious look at the top of this post is from 1790-1 and the more relaxed portrait below is from 1797 or thereabouts.

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For contrast, here’s a fashionable lady with a lapdog from the 1780s, a portrait of Dona Maria Teresa Apodaca de Sisma by Agustín Esteve:

Lapdog lady

Clearly, you’ll want to read Mary’s classic proto-feminist text, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. We recommend this annotated edition, edited by the excellent Janet Todd.

And if you want to find out more about Mary herself, try Claire Tomalin’s now-classic The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft.

Follow the progress of – or donate to – the campaign to get a statue of Mary put up on Newington Green, where she first led an independent life. Mary on the Green! And here’s what that statue will look like, designed by Maggi Hambling:


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Thanks for listening! Our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon. Check out parts 2 to 4 of our FRANKENFRAUEN series for more fascinating women involved in some way with the classic story of Frankenstein.

Dead Ladies Show #19

Show number 19 is an all-out fantabulous Frankenstein special… bringing you three terrifyingly impressive dead ladies who led unconventional lives and were all somehow tied up with that genre-defining novel: author Mary Shelley, her mother, Urfeminist Mary Wollstonecraft, and Ada Lovelace, computing innovator (and daughter of Lord Byron). Your presenters for the night will be co-hosts Katy Derbyshire and Florian Duijsens, along with Bard College’s own Professor Laura ScuriattiCome along and join us in our favorite venue, the ACUD STUDIO, on Tuesday, 27 November at 8 pm.

Presented (just this once) all in English. €5 or €3 reduced entry (free for BCB students/staff). This edition generously supported by Bard College Berlin. Doors open 7:30 pm – come on time to get a good seat and a good drink!

And if you cannot make it this time, check out the new season of our wonderful podcast (produced by Susan Stone), which just kicked off last month and has already seduced a great many listeners with its presentations on genius Marie Skłodowska Curie and novelist Aphra Behn, plus special features on forgotten German doctor, reformer and writer, Anna Fischer-Dückelmann, and almost forgotten photographer Vivian Maier. Listen wherever you get your casts!

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How could we talk about dead ladies and Frankenstein without the original creator, Mary Shelley? Tutored by her philosopher father, including in story-writing, she may or may not have lost her virginity in a cemetery, to her later husband Percy Shelley. Prompted on a rained-in trip to Lake Geneva in the midst of a positively millennial tangle of relationships, Mary first published Frankenstein anonymously in 1818. She lost three children and numerous close friends and relatives before being widowed at 24. Yet she managed to battle depression and raise her surviving son, writing six more novels, plus travel pieces, articles, and short stories, and living on the proceeds. Mary Shelley was a writer with a radical imagination, a woman who challenged social convention and gave us the gift of science fiction.
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Her mother Mary Wollstonecraft died eleven days after Mary Shelley’s birth. Best known for her proto-feminist A Vindication of the Rights of Women, she too was never one to do what was expected of her. After publishing her bestselling rant, she moved to France to watch the Revolution unfold, returning to London in 1795 with an illegitimate child fathered by a useless chancer. Baby Mary was conceived out of wedlock too, but her mother swiftly married the philosopher William Godwin to make up for it. Mary Wollstonecraft earned her own living throughout her life, as a lady’s companion, schoolteacher, tutor, and most successfully as a writer of novels, reviews, and philosophical tracts on education. She now has an asteroid in her name.
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Ada Lovelace was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron, one of Mary Shelley’s tight circle of friends present on that fateful stay in Switzerland. Her distant mother, pissed off by her husband abandoning her shortly after the birth, raised Ada to take an interest in mathematics. She built a set of wings in the hope of flying at the age of 12 and became an accomplished mathematician. As an adult, she translated an Italian paper on a proposed machine, the Analytical Engine, which would have been the first computer. Adding notes three times as long as the original, she went ahead and invented the first computer program. Ada Lovelace has sparked imaginations ever since, becoming a popular feminist figure with hundreds of things named after her, including a computer language.

Podcast #14: Aphra Behn & Vivian Maier

Episode 2 of our new season, produced and presented in November 2018 by Susan Stone.

Translator extraordinaire (and DLS co-founder) Katy Derbyshire tells us all about Aphra Behn, the first woman author who lived off her writing. Additionally, our podcast producer Susan Stone visits a new Berlin exhibition of work by the mysterious photographer Vivian Maier and tries to pin down just who took these pictures and how she would feel about them becoming public.

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

Show notes

Here’s a sketch of Aphra Behn by George Scharf:

Aphra_Behn Scharf

Here’s a longer version of that Blackadder clip, note the period fashions:

The opening pages of Behn’s Oronoko, in French translation:

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Aphra Behn, “The Poetess”, by Peter Lely:

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More Behn:

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If your interest in milk punch is piqued, try any of the delightful recipes out there and serve some Restoration-era cocktails at your next social gathering. And here’s the final extant portrait:

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Katy recommends you read Behn’s The Rover, and the excellent biography by Janet Todd, Aphra Behn: A Secret Life. And at this link you can find a picture of Behn’s grave at Westminster Abbey.

On to Vivian Maier. Here she is in a typical selfie:

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Self-portrait, undated,  © Estate of Vivian Maier, Courtesy of Maloof Collection and Howard Greenberg Gallery, NY.

If you want to see more of her work, check out the show at the Willy Brandt Haus in Berlin (up until January 6, 2019), browse the website dedicated to her work, or check out the fantastic biography by Pamela Bannos. 

This episode features music by Dee Yan-Key (“Weep No More“), and our theme music is “Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon.

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back in December with our next episode.