The Ukok Princess and the Scythians

In 1993, in the freezing Siberian Steppes, archeologists unearthed a remarkable grave. In it they found the tattoed and mummifed remains of a 2500 year old female shaman. This discovery would contribute to a complete re-imagining of the lives of women in antiquity, and allow historians to see the connection between the mythical Amazons and their real-life counterparts, the Scythians. Join us as we untangle myth from reality, unlocking the Ukok Princess’ secrets, and those of her warrior sisters, to understand more about the powerful archetype of the Amazon, and how she continues to inspire us today!

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Shirley Jackson with Reading Women

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!

Lady Emma Hamilton

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

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!

Artemisia I of Caria

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.

Hannah Kent

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.

Catalina de Erauso

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. 

Tarana Burke

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.

Margot McGovern

In our first interview of season two, (and the launch of a new special series!) we sat down with author Margot McGovern to chat all things YA: from the emergence of ‘unlikable’ female protagonists (and why they’re so irresistible) to the power of transforming myths of masculine adventure for girls, we delved deep into the gender dynamics of the world’s fastest growing literary genre.

In Neverland, Margot’s own feisty and – let’s be honest – bratty heroine Kit must navigate her return to her island home-turned-boarding school and its troubled teenage inhabitants, the depths of lust and attraction, not to mention the treacherous waters of her family’s tragic past and her own history of self-harm. We like our heroines complicated, and Kit Learmouth doesn’t disappoint, so grab yourself a map and join us for our first dive into the waters of YA.

Zitkála-Šá

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. 

Catherine Monvoisin

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.

Helen Duncan

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!