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!
After fleeing her arms-dealing husband and his castle in the Austrian countryside, Hedy Lamarr made her way to Hollywood and the open arms of MGM Studios. She was going to be a star! The only problem: she’d gained a risque reputation for herself in the Czech film Ecstacy. This temptress image is one that would follow Hedy for much of her career, despite the fact that not only was she an extraordinary talent, she was also an extraordinary mind. Because little did most of Hollywood know, Hedy spent her evenings working on an invention that would go on to change the world forever! Join us as we journey through wartime Vienna to the MGMs studio lots, and watch the thrilling and devastating downfall of the bombshell, Hedy Lamarr.
Famous today as the overlooked illustrator of the influential Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck, in her own time Pamela Colman Smith was something of an enigma. Known for her lively and enchanting Jamaican folklore performances, her publishing press and literary magazine, and for her extraordinary miniature theatre, Pamela – Pixie to her friends – wove magical worlds where women had agency and gender was fluid. But she was also a woman cloaked in mystery, and who was often Othered by her contemporaries. Join us, together with PCS scholar Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, as we travel from England to Jamaica, New York and Cornwall, tracing this elusive and enigmatic woman.
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.
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!
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.