Podcast #26: Doreen Valiente & Martha Maxwell

Episode 26 brings you spooky Dead Lady tales all the way from NYC! First, Claire Carroll introduces us to England’s Doreen Valiente, known as the mother of modern witchcraft. In the UK and beyond, she was key in the spread of modern day Wicca, now a world-wide religion. Doreen also had more than a few secrets under her cape.
Then, it’s time for a live lady taxidermist talking about a Dead Lady taxidermist! Divya Anantharaman of Gotham Taxidermy brings us the story of American naturalist and taxidermy pioneer Martha Maxwell.

The talks were recorded live at two separate editions of NYC DLS, which is hosted and curated by Molly O’Laughlin Kemper, with support from Nicolas Kemper and Christopher Neil and Lori Schwarz, general manager of the KGB Bar’s Red Room, where the event is held. Join the NYC newsletter to stay updated on the next ones!

Dead Ladies Show co-founder Katy Derbyshire joins podcast producer & presenter Susan Stone to chat about these spooky wonderful dames and more.

 

 

Also available on Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple PodcastsRadioPublic, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and Acast. You can find the transcript of this episode here.

Show notes:

Now for some pictures!

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Image: © Doreen Valiente Foundation

Here’s Doreen with some of the tools of her trade.

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Image: © Doreen Valiente Foundation

And here are some of her ceremonial artifacts shown as they would be on an altar.

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Image: © Doreen Valiente Foundation

Ritual books owned by Doreen Valiente, including Gerald Gardner’s Book of Shadows at the back

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The Blue Plaque marking the last home Doreen lived in. It’s the only historic plaque on a public housing building in the UK.

…onto the taxidermy portion of our show…

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Image: © Molly O’Laughlin

Presenter Divya Anantharaman artfully combines Rihanna lyrics with taxidermy to illustrate Martha Maxwell’s burning desire for knowledge.

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Lion of Gripsholm. Copyright: Kungl. Hovstaterna/The Royal Court, Sweden

Taxidermy hasn’t always been done skillfully. The Lion of Gripsholm is an infamous example of what happens when someone who has never seen the animal alive is tasked with recreating it from its skin alone.

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Image: © Museum of Natural History, Berlin

And, get a load of these ocelots! Can you *spot* the difference? Again, one was prepared by someone with little to no knowledge of the actual animal. 

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Martha Maxwell sensibly attired in her hunting outfit.

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Maxwell’s display at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition was the first of its kind.

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

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

 

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.