Podcast #31: Alexandra Kollontai

Welcome to episode 31, in which Dead Ladies Show co-founder Katy Derbyshire talks about Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai. She was present at the Copenhagen Second Congress of Socialist Women in 1910, where she voted for the introduction of International Women’s Day. Kollontai worked hard to promote women’s interests in the early Soviet Union, often a losing battle. And she had some exciting ideas about love in the new society.

Here it is, introduced and produced by Susan Stone for your enlightenment and enjoyment:

Show notes:
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Katy’s favourite pic, Kollontai (centre) at the Congress of the Peoples of the East, Baku 1920
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Young Alexandra
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Rabotnitsa, or The Woman Worker, 1923
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Kollontai as a Soviet ambassador
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With medals
For further reading, Katy recommends Cathy Porter’s excellent Alexandra Kollontai, A Biography, which gives a lot of helpful background information. And if you read German, Barbara Kirchner’s edition of Kollontai’s Autobiographie einer sexuell emanzipierten Kommunistin.

 

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

Thanks for listening! We’ll be back with a new episode in April. And here’s a link to our Patreon, in case you’d like to help fund transcripts.

Support for the Dead Ladies Show podcast comes from the Berliner Senat.

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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.