This week we teamed up with Kendra and Autumn of Reading Women to get spooky and chat all things Shirley Jackson, the queen of horror. From her unhappy childhood as the unwanted daughter of aspiring socialites, to her equally unhappy marriage to the philandering Stanley Hymen, we investigate how the demons of domesticity and anxiety (and a dose of a love for the occult) primed her to become one of the greatest gothic horror writers of all time. We then dive into her masterful short story, ‘The Lottery’, and geek out about the new adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House. So grab your favourite dog-eared Jackson paperback, and settle in for Halloween and Day of the Dead with the four of us!
From humble beginnings as the daughter of a blacksmith, little Emy Lyon could never have known she would end up Lady Emma Hamilton: wife of the English ambassador to Naples, lover to the glorified hero Admiral Nelson, and muse to some of the greatest artists of her age. But history has defined Emma by the men she inspired, overlooking the complex and creative woman who developed her own style of performance art, and who was instrumental in the political machinations that would see Nelson defeat the French. Follow us from the seedy “health spas” of London into the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, as we follow a woman whose scandalous and unconventional life made her a celebrity.
Jennet Device was just nine years old when she found herself at the centre of one of history’s most infamous witch trials. On the stand, she denounced her entire family as witches and set up a precedent for child witness testimony that would have ramifications long after she was gone. We trace the fascinating details of this notorious trial – from its canine familiars to clay figures and forbidden sabbats – and investigate just how complicit Jennet may have been in the Device family’s demise!
In the 5th century BCE the Persian Empire stretched from Asia and the Middle East, as far as Africa and Europe. But the Persian King, Xerxes, sought to expand the empire, launching his armies into Greece by land and by sea. Among the commanders of the Persian fleet was Artemisia: Queen of Caria and ruthless naval strategist. Her courage at the Battle of Artemisium set her apart, and her wily recklessness at the Battle of Salamis cemented her place in history, as well as in Xerxes’ esteem. But the historicity of her life is elusive, leading some to fill in the gaps with clichéd tropes. Take your place to witness an epic clash of civilisations, as we consider Artemisia’s place in the fray alongside Hollywood’s representation of this fascinating figure.
Famed as the legendary Nun Lieutenant, Catalina de Erauso, fighter, lover and all round adventurer, was perhaps even more revered for her status as a supreme seducer than her skills with a sword. After escaping the convent where she spent her childhood, Catalina fashioned herself hose and doublet and made her way through Spain and South America under a number of male guises. Her pattern of lawbreaking, finding sanctuary in churches and evading execution eventually got her an audience with the Pope himself. So don your habit, grab your sword and join us for one hell of an adventure.
Carry A. Nation was born Carrie Amelia Moore in 1846 in Kentucky. By the time the Civil War had ended, Carry had experienced first hand the devastation that alcoholism could inflict. Headstrong and determined, Carry left an abusive husband to start her life over again. When she met and married David Nation, Carry took the surname that would define her and her God-given mission to end the spread of alcohol, setting out to single-handedly reform a nation caught in the grips of liquid sin. Go get your smashers listeners, because it’s time to have a hatchetation!
To celebrate NAIDOC week, we wanted to honour the extraordinary life of one of Australia’s foremost, but often misremembered Indigenous women, Truganini. Born on Bruny Island off the Tasmanian Coast in the early 19th century in the Palawa community, Truganini’s life was quickly transformed by the arrival of British invaders. After surviving a tragic early life, she realised she could help her people by becoming a guide and interpreter. But when she lost hope in even that, she turned to the bush and life as an outlaw. A content warning to listeners that this episode contains discussion of extreme violence and genocide. Because of her, we can.
In October 2017, women across the globe came together under the hashtag MeToo. However, social activist and advocate Tarana Burke had already been campaigning for women of colour under the same banner for eleven long years. In this episode, we talk about her incredibly important work, the pervasiveness of predatory behaviour, and the way women are constantly told that they should somehow take responsibility for a culture of misogyny and sexual entitlement beyond their control. A content warning for listeners that we discuss issues of sexual violence and trauma, getting pretty angry and emotional into the bargain. This is not an episode best suited to your morning commute! At the same time, we also celebrate the influence of this inspiring woman, and the movement that has grown up in the wake of her work.
After leaving her home at the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota for the brutal regiment of boarding school in the east, Zitkála-Šá began developing the creative talents and political consciousness that would make her one of the most influential Native American women of the 20th Century. Her acclaimed stories and essays chronicled her struggles with identity and culture, and her translations brought Native American legends to a whole new audience. All the while, she maintained a subversive rebellious spirit that lit the flames of her later activism. So join us as we traverse prairies and plains with one who knows them best, Zitkála-Šá.
Towards the close of the 17th century, the opulent hallways of Versailles were swept up with the scandalous ‘Affair of the Poisons’. The Sun King, Louis XIV, ordered an investigation into the dark underworld of the Paris occult, hunting down those who supplied potions and aphrodisiacs alongside more sinister wares. One of those was Catherine Monvoisin, a favoured fortune teller and sorceress among the wealthy elite. Join us as we press our ears to the grand doorways of the palace, abuzz with whispered gossip and treachery, and endeavour to unpick truth from accusation in the life of La Voisin.
Infamous as the last woman tried under the Witchcraft Act of 1735, Helen Duncan caused more than a few stirs in her time. After terrifying her schoolmates her with dire predictions, Helen grew up to become one of wartime Britain’s foremost physical mediums. She soon became the target of a series of scientific investigations and caught the attention of MI5, which resulted in a court-case Winston Churchill himself described as ‘obsolete tomfoolery.’ So grab your cheesecloth and darken the lights as we delve into the scandalous life of Mrs Duncan!
One of Australia’s most awarded playwrights, Patricia Cornelius isn’t afraid to go where other writers won’t. With titles like SHIT and SLUT, Patricia pushes her audience to pay attention to some of society’s most visceral issues. In The Club was specially commissioned for the State Theatre Company of South Australia, and it shines a blinding light on accounts of sexual violence in one of our most beloved national sports. Patricia sat down with us to discuss her life in the theatre, and just what inspired her to write this uncompromising new work.