Celebrated as the iconic model and muse for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddall has become one of the most recognisable faces in the history of Western art. However, famed for her beauty and romanticised for her tragic personal life, Lizzie Siddall’s own art and poetry was largely brushed aside, diminished by the grandeur of the “great men” who surrounded her. Come with us as we button our bonnets and prepare for some grave-digging in order to examine the mythic story of her life and death, and the long undervalued significance of her own work.
In our first episode back for Season Three, we get piratical with the most successful pirate of them all… a woman! From infamous beginnings, Ching Shih’s path crossed with Cheng I, a notorious sea dog who terrorised China’s southern coastline. Together, they formed an unstoppable coalition of pirates, with a stranglehold on the precious trade that ran through the Pearl River Delta to Canton. But when Cheng I died a new leader was needed, and Ching Shih stepped up to write her place in history. So get your sea legs ready and prepare for battle as we explore the life of the fierce Ching Shih.
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.
In our second interview of season two we are lucky enough to be joined by multi-award winning author, Hannah Kent. Based on the true story of the last person to be executed in Iceland, Hannah’s international bestseller, Burial Rites, follows the last days of the accused murderess, Agnes Magnusdottir, while her second novel, The Good People, examines the lives of three very different women caught up in the world of Irish folklore and superstition.
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.
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.
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!
Born in the early hours of a thunderstorm, with pointed ears and ‘witches’ marks’ on her skin, little Rosaleen was destined for a life of the occult. From her earliest childhood, Roie was drawn to the dark, and her drawings and stories about ghouls, monsters and grotesque horrors set her apart from her peers. As a young woman, she immersed herself in Theosophy, Western Esoterism, dedicated herself to the pagan god, Pan, and pursued a life of art. Come with us to the dingy streets of mid-century Sydney, where Rosaleen’s occult paintings and pagan ways made her infamous as the Witch of King’s Cross.