In 1919, into the heart of the burgeoning Harlem Renaissance – an artistic and cultural movement that would shape the very fabric of the US – Norma Miller was born. As a child, she would watch the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald play to the hopping crowds of the Savoy Ballroom, the majestic heart of Harlem and the birthplace of swing. At just 12, she was plucked from the street outside its doors and so began a career that would take her around the globe as one of the world’s foremost swing dancers – and all before she turned 18. So put on a record and lace up your dancing shoes, because we’re swinging out from the sprung-wood floors of the Savoy to the slippery decks of British liners and the beaches of Rio as we follow the life of Norma Miller, Queen of Swing.
Born into the last days of slavery, Ida B. Wells was raised to fight. The daughter of two politically active entrepreneurs, she wanted to raise herself and her siblings into the middle class. But while emancipation may have passed into law, new structural barriers emerged to keep women like Wells out – out of the economy, out of the political system, and out of first class train carriages. When a conductor tried to force Wells into the smoking car on a ride from Memphis to Nashville, Wells took a stand. The event launched a writing and activist career that would see her tackle some of the greatest injustices of her age – and ours. Her reports, Southern Horrors and The Red Record, laid bare the horror of lynchings in the South and she would go on to found a number of Civil Rights organisations – some of which survive today. She was also a suffragist unafraid to call out the movement for its lack of black representation – an intersectional feminist well before her time!
At the beginning of the Hundred Years War, well before Joan of Arc led her army, another French woman was making men tremble. On the volatile English channel, Jeanne de Clisson was seeking vengeance. The target of her wrath was none other than the King of France, Phillip VI, himself. As leader of the Black Fleet, she carved a name for herself as a violent and unwavering leader, unafraid to hack the heads from her enemies with a swing of her trusty axe. But it wasn’t always this way. Born into nobility, Jeanne was destined for a very different kind of life. So what kind callousness could have turned this mother of seven to a life of treachery?
Grab your axe and join us as we discover the violent lives and violent ends of Jeanne de Clisson, The Lioness of Brittany, and the noblewomen who led and took up arms in the Battle for Brittany.
In the 1960s, vice-admiral Erik af Klint opened a crate of art. It had been left to him by his aunt with strict instructions that it should remain sealed for some twenty years after her death. What Erik found was a remarkable cache of work that would throw into question everything we believe about the beginning of abstract art. You see, five years before Kadinsky and Mondrian began their forays into abstractionism, a Swedish woman named Hilma af Klint had received a special commission: to create a remarkable collection of work that would adorn a spiral temple. But who was this great benefactor? It was no businessman or high-ranking official, but rather the High Master Amaleil, who communicated the missive to af Klint in a séance she held regularly with her closest friends, a collective of women known as ‘The Five’. af Klint went on to create an extraordinary body of boldly colourful, geometric and highly symbolic art, all guided by the spirtual masters with whom she regularly communed.
So, light some candles and settle in as we delve into the fascinating world of Theosophy, Rosicrucianism and Hilma af Klint’s astonishing proto-abstractionism!
In the underworld of Paris’s Belle Epoque, where the wealthiest of men flocked to mingle with the beautiful and cultured demimondaine, Liane de Pougy found the calling she didn’t know she was looking for. After leaving her abusive husband and young son, eighteen-year-old Anne-Marie Chassagne found herself in this centre of pleasure and decided to take up with the reigning queen of courtesans, Valtesse de la Bigne. Under her mistresses’ tutelage, Chassagne, who renamed herself Liane de Pougy, would go on to grace the stage at the Folies-Bergere, be courted by the likes of Leopold II, and publish subversive sapphic auto-fiction. But it wasn’t all partying. After losing her prince husband, Pougy took the veil and devoted her life to supporting those with disabilities.
So in this time of great uncertainty, escape with us into the the fabulous and decadent world of the Belle Epoque!
In the melting pot of 19th century New Orleans, one woman emerged as the most powerful and legendary practitioners of Louisiana Voodoo. From her humble beginnings as the daughter of a free-man and his Voodoo doctor mistress, Laveau grew up to become a priestess, a healer, an activist and a commanding and influential leader of her community. But Laveau’s story is as much legend as it is reality, and even in her lifetime stories proliferated about her midnight graveyard ceremonies, animal sacrifices and mesmerising evil incantations.
So how, in a story like this, do we tell the difference between history and myth? And who do we believe when we listen to her story? Join us for our Season Four premier as we pick apart the complex and fascinating life of the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau!
It’s the holiday season, but we’ve taken a little time out of our summer break to bring you some good cheer with our annual Christmas Special! In this end of year special we chat about our summer plans, our favourite Deviant Women of 2019, and then we dive into the Roman goddess of the New Year, Strenua, and her Italian counterpart, La Befana. Grab a drink, a mince pie and some pudding, and let’s get into some festive goodness!
In the underworld of prohibitionist Harlem, there was one queen who ruled the roost – Stephanie ‘Queenie’ St Clair. The Caribbean racketeer was not only a boss entrepreneur of the illegal numbers game, she was also a leader and activist, funnelling her vast riches back into the community. Unlike others on the scene, she ruled by reputation alone, and was known for her elegant style and give-no-fucks attitude. But then, as prohibition came to an end, the mob started seeking out new lucrative enterprises and showed up on her turf. Queenie soon found herself in the midst of a gang-land showdown with the infamous mobster Dutch Schultz! So join us down at the speakeasy as we knock one back in our final episode of 2019 with Queenie St Clair!
In 1632 in a small, haunted Ursuline convent, a series of strange disturbance began to occur. When the Prioress, 25-year-old Sister Jeanne, was beset by terrifying dreams of a priest who cursed her and bade her to perform obscene sexual acts, she knew who was to blame. She had been possessed, she claimed, by demons under the direction of one Urbaine Grandier, the powerful parish priest of Loudun. As more and more of the nuns came under the influence of devils, it was determined that elaborate exorcisms were in order, and investigations into Grandier’s maleficent magic began. While Sister Jeanne maintained that she was the innocent victim of possession, others soon suggested her potential involvement with a conspiracy to bring Grandier down. So, was Jeanne indeed a victim of maleficent witchcraft, or is the power of hysteria to blame for her actions? Perhaps, though, she was far more calculating than this! Get out your rosary beads and holy water and join us in this week’s Halloween episode to find out more about Sister Jeanne des Anges and the infamous possessions at Loudun!
It’s finally time, Deviants! This fortnight, we journeyed way, way back to visit the figure who started it all, the original Deviant Woman – the witch, the slayer, the mean mother you don’t want to cross – Medea! From her mythological beginnings as Jason’s right-hand-woman to her titular role at the centre of Euripides’ famous drama, Medea remains one of Greek mythology’s most infamous and intriguing figures. After supporting Jason through his conquests with the Argonauts (and saving his life on multiple occasions!) Medea was betrayed in the most awful way, and her method of revenge is one that has seen her labelled a madwoman, a fiend, and a wicked and monstrous mother. But is it really that simple?
We’re joined by Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby’s fabulous host Liv to dive into all things monsters, betrayal, rage and revenge. So grab your poisons, your favourite coronet and climb aboard your dragon chariot, and join us as we break down one of our all time favourite Deviant Women, Medea!
In the dark and seedy cabarets of Weimar Berlin, where sex was a performance and decadence was king, one woman ruled the room. Born to artist parents at the turn of the century, Anita Berber was destined for a life on the stage. Famed for her kohl-rimmed eyes, her bright red hair, and her provocative burlesque, Berber became an underground sensation. But she was just as infamous for her scandalous bisexual affairs and hotel orgies as her avante-garde performances, and with dances named ‘Cocaine’, ‘Morphine’, and ‘Asylum’, you know she partied as hard as she danced! So join us in the end-of-the-world liberalism of Weimar Germany as we trace this Expressionist queen to the stage and beyond!
When Wendy Carlos released Switched On Bach, the first classical album recorded on a synthesizer, she radically transformed people’s understandings of what electronic music could do. At the time of the album’s release, Wendy was also six-months into hormone therapy and struggling with her rising fame and anxieties about how the public might react to her transition. But Switched On Bach was a huge success and Wendy went on not only to critical acclaim, but to work with famed composers and film directors, including scoring Stanley Kubrik’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. Join Lauren and our special guest host, Deviant Women’s own composer India Hooi, as we discover how Wendy Carlos changed music forever!