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.
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**
We’re going live again! Dead ladies, live on stage, next Tuesday, October 5, 8pm at ACUD.
We’re going to try and do it outdoors but if the weather doesn’t play along we’ll move inside! We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite. 3G entry only – geimpft, genesen, getestet. In the event of rain, sleet, snow or cold weather, we’ll move indoors to the ACUD Studio, so please bring a mask to use when you’re not at your seat.
Join our guest presenters, awesome academic AGATA LISIAK and jubilant journalist THEMBI WOLF, along with our podcast producer SUSAN STONE, to learn about three fascinating females who shaped our world. All held together by your familiar hosts, FLORIAN DUIJSENS and KATY DERBYSHIRE. You’ll learn about three revolutionary women – in fields as diverse as politics, sex, and architecture. We’ll be rocking the ACUD courtyard as the sun goes down, celebrating ladies who changed other people’s lives.
Presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €8 or €5 reduced entry. Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 7:30 pm – come on time to get a good seat!
ROSA LUXEMBURG was a Polish Marxist and co-founder of the anti-war Spartacus League in 1915 Germany, which became the KPD. Having started out as a political activist at the age of 15, she had organized a general strike before she left school. She wrote prolifically and travelled widely in the service of the revolution, all while on the run from the tsarist police. Luxemburg moved to Berlin in 1898, where she “hated the stifling conservatism, despised Prussian men and resented what she saw as the grip of urban capitalism on social democracy.” After Germany’s 1918 revolution she was tortured, murdered and thrown in the Landwehr Canal by Freikorps soldiers. Today she has her own square, though, so there’s that.
DR. JUNE DOBBS BUTTS was an African-American sex researcher and therapist who argued for greater openness about sex in the Black community. The youngest of six daughters of a civil rights activist, she grew up playing with Martin Luther King Jr. After years of study and breakthrough research, she eventually had her own practice in Maryland, hosted a radio show, and wrote articles and columns for Black magazines like Jet, Ebony and Essence. “I realize that there are a lot of critics,” she said, “but I’ve found out that nine times out of 10 they have a sex hang-up themselves.”
ZAHA HADID was a British-Iraqi architect. Dubbed “the queen of the curve” and “a planet in her own orbit”, she received awards by the truckload for the buildings she left us. Hadid studied in Baghdad and London and opened her own firm in 1980, only three years after graduating. Many of her ambitious plans went unbuilt while she established her unique style, until she designed a fire station near the Rhine. From then on, her projects grew bigger and bigger (and often curvier). She taught and painted and designed interiors and products, and was also on the editorial board of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
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.
We’re back! We’ve got new ladies to tell you about! And we’re doing it outdoors!
We’re tentatively extending a toe into the live-event waters, since it seems safe to us under Berlin’s restrictions. So come along and enjoy some fresh air and edifying entertainment.
Join our guest presenters, the awesome writers SHARON DODUA OTOO and NADIRE BISKIN, along with old stalwart KATY DERBYSHIRE, to learn about three fascinating females who did their own thing. All held together by our prodigious podcast producer SUSAN STONE. There’ll be a royal rebel against colonialist rule, a woman who rethought the binary and the borderland, and a lady who was seriously into bees. We’ll be rocking the ACUD courtyard as the sun goes down, celebrating lives lived to great effect.
Presented in a messy mixture of English and German. €8 or €5 reduced entry. Generously supported by the Berliner Senat. Doors open 8 pm – come on time to get a good seat!
We have limited space, so please book in advance via Eventbrite. 3G entry only – geimpft, genesen, getestet. In the event of rain, we’ll move indoors to the ACUD Studio, so please bring a mask to use when you’re not at your seat.
YAA ASANTEWAA led the 1900 Ashanti war against British colonialism in present-day Ghana. Born in 1840, she was a skilled farmer and mother, before ascending matrilineally to the title of Queen Mother in the 1880s. That made her a key advisor and king-maker. When the British governor demanded the kingdom’s emblem of power, the Golden Stool, she encouraged the Ashanti government to fight back through a powerful speech, and was chosen to head an army of 5000 at the age of sixty. Though she was captured and died in exile, and the war was lost, her mortal remains were returned home for a royal burial. She lives on in many imaginations today, especially in Ghana.
GLORIA ANZALDÚA was an American scholar of Chicana cultural theory, feminist theory, and queer theory. Born in the Mexico-Texas border region, she thought deeply about marginalization and the in-between. She began her working life as a schoolteacher and went on to live from her writing and academic work. Her ideas often challenged binary notions – in language, identity, sexuality – and the status quo of the movements she was part of. She spoke of herself as a “Chicana, tejana, working-class, dyke-feminist poet, writer and theorist”. Her collection of figurines, masks, rattles, candles, and other ephemera used as altar objects is held at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
EVA CRANE was a British expert on bees and beekeeping. Her education took her from a southeast London grammar school to a PhD in nuclear physics, which she taught at Sheffield University. Having been given a beehive as a wedding present in 1942, she quickly shifted her attention from atoms to apiculture. She founded the Bee Research Association and edited both the Journal of Apicultural Research and Bee World, while travelling to sixty countries to investigate local bees and the long history of human honey cultivation. To the delight of many translators, she was also general editor of ten multilingual dictionaries of beekeeping terms.
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!
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.
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.
You can download the transcript, created by Rachel Pronger, here.
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!).
The star of our 40th (!) episode is author, educator, and therapist Beryl Gilroy. Born in what was then British Guiana, she trained as a teacher before migrating to London in 1952 as part of the Windrush generation and worked all manner of jobs until becoming one of the very first Black head teachers in the UK. Her groundbreaking debut, Black Teacher (1976), documented her journey up to that point, and she’d keep publishing until her death in 2001. Telling her story is Berlin-based author Divya Ghelani.