From the moment eighteen-year-old Charlotte Cushman stepped out on stage as Lady Macbeth she was destined for greatness. Treading the boards from New York to London, Charlotte cemented her reputation as the finest American actress of the 19th century. But her personal life was just as dramatic as the parts she played, with a slew of female lovers that placed her at the centre of Rome’s artistic expatriate community. Follow us backstage as the houselights dim and we peer beyond the curtain into the life and times of one of the theatre’s true legends.
From a progressive upbringing in otherwise conservative late-Victorian Melbourne, Agnes Goodsir went on to become one of Australia’s foremost bohemians. After studying and exhibiting between London and Paris, Goodsir eventually settled with her muse and lover, Cherry. Come with us to the salons of the Left Bank on the cusp of a new century, where Agnes and Cherry can be found sipping wine with Paris’ famous artistic and lesbian elite.
In the rowdy wrestling arenas of Mexico City, there is a woman whose iconic status rivals that of the most famous of the male fighters. Luchadora Irma González grew up in the circus, but it didn’t take long before she found her way into the ring, and began travelling the world as a champion fighter, appearing on the silver screen and even pursuing a singing career. Come on and take your ring-side seats and prepare to get shouty as we delve into the amazing world of the women of lucha libre.
In the humid tropics of 1920s Townsville, Lizzy O’Dea became infamous in the local tabloids for shooting her rival. As the press continued to sensationalise her adventures, notoriety for her petty theft and sexual exploits grew. Join us as we chat with author Ariella Van Luyn, whose novel Treading Air follows Lizzy from bookie’s daughter in Brisbane to working girl at the Causeway Hotel, about researching the life of one of history’s hidden women, and why such stories continue to be relevant to us today.
Takeko Nakano of the prominent Aiku clan was a fierce Onna-bugeisha and master of the deadly naginata. When the Boshin War saw the Shogun’s army square off against the Imperialists, Takeko knew where her duty lay. At just 21, with the Imperial Army at the gates, she led a rag-tag squad of lady warriors onto the battlefield, determined to sacrifice everything for the honour of her clan. Join us as we delve into the fray, but don’t forget to pen your death-poem first, and bring your kaikan dagger just in case …
In the frosty splendour of 18th century Moscow, the death of Peter the Great paves the way for family rivalries and political intrigue. Drawn into the fray is Anna, the impoverished and largely forgotten Duchess of Courland. As the noble men of court clamour to pull the strings, Anna makes her move, becoming Empress of all Russia on her own terms. While Anna’s ten-year reign bolstered advances in science and the arts she is mostly remembered for her excess, extravagance, and ruthless cruelty. Brace yourself as we sweep through the lavish rooms of the Winter Palace, and into the fiendish realities of Anna’s imagination. You are going to need a very warm coat…
In 1984 author Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale: the chilling dystopic story of Offred, a woman trying to survive in a world where women have been reduced to their procreative functions. Since its publication, the novel has been turned into a film, an opera, a ballet, and most recently into a Hulu television series. Join us as we pair up with Justin from Mayday: The Handmaid’s Tale Podcast to unpack just what it is about Atwood’s vision that seems so compelling, and so relevant, over thirty years later.
In the epic time of Norse mythology, the Völsunga Saga tells of love, betrayal, tragedy and blood feuds. At the heart of one family’s legend sits Guðrún Gjúkadóttir, wife to three kings, and a woman to whom vengeance necessitates a devastating sacrifice. Join us as we venture into a land of Valkyries and dragons, where a sorceress’s prophecy might foretell your doom, and you must always be wary of accepting ale!
Born to only ever be the King’s Great Wife, Hatshepsut defied history and, after the death of her Pharaoh husband, proclaimed herself King. A great builder, trader, and military leader, the history of Hatshepsut’s achievements was systematically erased, lost for thousands of years until archeologists began to piece together the truth about the woman who ruled as Pharaoh. Come with us as we travel through the mists of time to a land steeped in myth and legends to discover one of the ancient world’s greatest rulers.
Both born bastards, and disguised as boys in their youths, Anne Bonny and Mary Read shared more than just their love for the sea. Each left the British Isles for a life of piracy in the Caribbean where their fates intertwined. Infamy soon followed, as the pair gained a reputation as the most fearless and ferocious duo of the high seas. Come aboard as we follow the reckless adventures of these swashbuckling lady pirates!
Assigned female at birth, Eugenia Falleni led most of his life as Harry Crawford: a tough-talking, whiskey-drinking ladies man. In 1920 Harry was charged with the murder of his first wife, Annie Birkett, and his ‘duplicitous’ identity as Harry – then perceived a ‘sexual perversion’ – became Australia’s headline news. Join us as we trace Harry’s life, from shocking events aboard a merchant vessel on the high seas, to the working houses of Sydney, and wonder whether or not Harry’s fate could have been any different.
Josephine Baker broke from a life of poverty in St Louis to take jazz age Paris by storm. Riotous and erotic, Baker was adored for her uninhibited sensuality, unpredictability and wild humour. But she was also one of the most glamorous espionage spies of the French Resistance, and a passionate advocate of the Civil Rights Movement. Join us as we travel from St Louis to Paris, Berlin and Casablanca, chasing one of the twentieth century’s most dynamic women.