Baba Yaga

In the deep, dark forests of Russia, where danger lurks in the liminal spaces, you might just find the unusual abode of one of folklore’s most fascinating characters: the incomparable Baba Yaga. With her hooked nose, her bedraggled hair and her wrinkled skin, this hag of hags appears in her strange mode of transport, ready to aid or to hinder, depending on how much you keep your wits about you. With roots in the early Slavic pantheon of gods and goddesses, Baba Yaga has changed through the centuries, playing different roles for different listeners, and slowly crystallising into the ultimate fairy tale witch.

Arm yourself with your magic charms and keep your tongue sharp as we cross the threshold into the domain of talking creatures and mystical powers to stoke the fires and spin a tale or two of Baba Yaga.

Norma Miller

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.

Faith Bandler

During the 1960s, the world was in the grip of enormous ideological change. In Australia, there was public outcry against the Vietnam War and growing support for equal pay for women, free education, fair wages, and the abolishment of the White Australia Policy. There was also growing support for radical changes to the rights, or lack thereof, afforded to Indigenous Australians. Helping to drive this movement was a woman who was intimately familiar with what it felt like to face racial discrimination. The daughter of a slave “blackbirded” from the South Sea Islands in the 1880s, Faith Bandler was inspired by the injustices she saw around her to co-found the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship, and soon began the long fight that would eventually lead to a monumental referendum in 1967. But the referendum was only one part of a bigger whole, and in her latter life, Bandler continued to fight for those who were oppressed, eventually turning her attention towards her cultural roots in Vanuatu.

Join us as we grab our placards and take to the streets to celebrate Bandler’s contribution to the crucial work towards equality that continues in this country today.

Catherine of Siena

Saint, mystic, Mamma. Activist, author, Doctor of the Church. These are some of the ways that the young Catherine di Benincasa would come to be remembered. After receiving visions of Christ when she was only a child, Catherine devoted herself to religious sacrifice, compelled by the knowledge that God had bigger plans for her. When her life of penitence and privation led her to join the Dominican Order, her piety soon began to earn her a following. And as news started to spread of the small miracles that surrounded her – like her levitation during prayer and her ability to restore the deathly ill – the church was ready to sit up and pay attention. The growing belief in Catherine’s holiness gave her remarkable access to the inner sanctum of the patriarchal Catholic church, even to the Pope himself. But her spiritual devotion would eventually led to her demise, as her lifelong commitment to fasting and starvation ultimately took its toll on her.
Join us as we return to 14th century Europe, far away from the battlefields of France to the solitude and reflection of Catherine of Siena.

Gladys Deacon

When wealthy American socialites Florence and Edward Deacon moved to the vibrant playground of Paris in 1879, they had come to join the artists and intellectuals of the haute bohème. Born into this world of decadence, their daughter Gladys would soon have her childhood shattered by a shocking scandal that pitted her mother and father against each other for the rest of their lives. Despite this, Gladys would go on to be educated in the best schools, growing into an intelligent, witty, and beautiful young woman. After reading about the marriage of an American railroad heiress to an English Duke, Gladys decided that she too should find herself such a man.

Across Europe, Gladys’s feminine wiles attracted the crème de la crème of society, from painters, sculptors and poets to princes and kings. In 1902, a shift to London serendipitously found her moving in the same circles as the English Duke of her childhood crush, and Gladys finally had the world in the palm of her hand. But when her desire to become even more beautiful led her to make a horrifying mistake, Gladys turned away from the limelight, and the once shining star retreated to the shadows.

So join us as we – yet again! – journey to the fabulous and frivolous world of the Belle Époque to examine the life of a woman who would eventually go from the dizzying glamour of high society to the quiet and solitary life of a recluse.

Rosa May Billinghurst

By the turn of the twentieth century, the fight for women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom had already been raging for nearly forty years. Suffragists everywhere had been calling for changes that would allow women the right to become part of the political life of the nation, but their pleas had persistently been denied. Frustrated and angered, a new generation of activist women rose up, and the suffragette was born. With the motto ‘deeds, not words’, these fierce women were through asking nicely and, turning to militant tactics, they literally put their lives on the line to demand change. Among them was a woman who rarely escaped attention. With her modified tricycle for mobility, Rosa May Billinghurst threw herself into the fray alongside her sisters, suffering at the hands of mobs of angry men and a cruel and ruthless legal system. Ultimately they would be successful, but in a world where so many rights are still for the few rather than for all, their struggle for equality resonates as deeply today as it did over a hundred years ago.

So get ready to take to the streets (not literally! Stay home! Stay safe!) and join us as we venture into the protest marches and picket lines of suffragette city!

Bessie Smith

At the turn of the twentieth-century, in the rowdy streets of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a young Bessie Smith was literally singing for her supper. Busking alongside her brother, Bessie learned the hard way just what it took to capture an audience against the odds: to sing and dance and demand attention despite the clatter of carts and the shouts of storeowners and vendors selling their wares. This early foray into the performing life would help shape Smith into the greatest performer of her age, rising up to the heights of Empress of the Blues and becoming the highest paid black entertainer of her day. In her private life she was just as bold and brash as her stage persona, never shying away from saying what she thought and more than happy to get into a fistfight or two. So put the needle on some vinyl and join us as we get down and bluesy with Bessie Smith.

Marsha P Johnson

Marsha P Johnson was a legend of Christopher Street, a revolutionary trans and LGBTQ+ activist, and a leading figure of Stonewall. Famed for her extravagant floral headdresses, her bright red plastic heels, and her generous spirit, Marsha made a name for herself not just as a drag queen, but as a mother to the queer street and trans youth who needed her. Together with her best friend, fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera, she created STAR, the Street Transvestite (now Transgender) Action Revolutionaries, and advocated for the rights of the most marginalised of her community. Join us on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots as we celebrate the life of one of Pride’s most important figures.

Margaret Sanger

In the early 20th century the highly restrictive Comstock Laws made it almost impossible for American women to gain access to, or an understanding of, contraceptive methods. Arriving into the impoverished communities of New York city’s East Side, nurse Margaret Sanger saw women struggling with enormous families of children, the health ramifications of multiple births, and the horrors of back-alley abortions. This motivated her to act, starting a campaign of birth control advocacy that would form her life’s work. In the wake of the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the U.S., the first of our two part episode looks at this controversial woman’s career, and the fundamental changes brought about by her life long work.

La Llorona

Along the rivers and waterways of Mexico, a woman’s cries can be heard in the night. Punished for the crime of infanticide, La Llorona wanders in the dark for eternity, ready to snatch away unsuspecting children. But while her story makes for perfect horror film fare, there is more to her than meets the eye. With echoes of the Aztec goddess Cihuacóatl, her significance as a symbol of women’s agency and power has been reclaimed in modern feminist reimaginings of La Llorona lore. So turn the lights down low as we prepare for a ghost story that reveals much more about prescribed gender roles than Hollywood would like us to think…

Ching Shih

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.

Truganini

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.