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.
Amidst the surge and spray of Niagara Falls, Edmonia Lewis spent her childhood hunting, fishing, and making crafts for tourists. But when her half-brother helped her to pursue an education, Edmonia’s talent as a sculptor flourished. After leaving America to join the milieu of Italy’s artistic sisterhood, Edmonia threw herself into a dedication to art that would see her gain fame, both in Europe and at home. Join us in the bustling art scene of Rome, as we stroll through the arcades and galleries on our search to uncover the life and works of this fascinating figure.
A disguised princess forced into domestic drudgery who meets a prince at an extravagant ball might sound familiar, but there’s more to Juleidah’s version of the tale. After escaping the illicit desires of her father, this Egyptian princess dons a suit of leather and travels to a nearby kingdom, hiding out as the scullery maid and Queen’s jester. Come with us to a mythical land as we explore Cinderella’s lesser known cousin, ‘The Princess in the Suit of Leather’.
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 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!