St Brigid’s Day came and went, but an appetite remains for reviewing women from history through a 21st-century lens.
Ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, these series shine a light on those who challenged the status quo.
Women’s storytelling platform Herstory pulled a blinder last month, with its large-scale light projections hailing the all-new St Brigid’s Day. There’s an eponymous podcast too, whose 2020 launch coincided with RTÉ’s six-part series Herstory: Ireland’s EPIC Women (Apple, Spotify; rte.ie).
Curator/host Dr Angela Byrne shares life stories of key women who shaped Irish history and culture, such as wordsmith and LGBTQ+ hero Eva Gore-Booth, modernist architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray, and a tale of two Fannies: Olympic swimmer Fanny Durack, and Fanny Parnell, whose poetry echoed the activism of her brother Charles.
More Fannies at The Dead Ladies Show (Apple, Spotify; deadladiesshow.com), Fanny Blankers-Koen aka The Flying Housewife who, at the age of 30 and with two kids, won four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics and set 16 world records at eight different events.
Here, co-hosts Katy Derbyshire and Florian Duijsens present entertaining biographies of firebrands that also include our very own Grace O’Malley, the godmother of rock ‘n’roll Sister Rosetta Tharpe, 19th century African-American newspaper editor Ida B Wells and the 18th-century artistocrat Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who championed smallpox inoculation in England.
Full Disclosure: The Great Women Artists (Apple, Spotify; thegreatwomenartists.com) podcast also spotlights living artists, such as Tracey Emin, Marina Abramović, Yayoi Kusama and Shirin Neshat. But it’s their forebears who are arguably more fascinating in historian Katy Hessel’s long-running podcast for having overcome many more prejudices in an art world historically dominated by wealthy, white men.
There are also broader episodes, such as the great Mary Beard contemplating ‘Classical Women’ (female artists in ancient Rome and Greece, and depictions of women at that time) and novelist Ali Smith discussing four artists who provided inspiration for her Seasonal Quartet series (Pauline Boty, Barbara Hepworth, Tacita Dean, Lorenza Mazzetti).
Hessel’s podcast emerged from her popular Instagram account, and also spawned last year’s top-selling illustrated book The Story of Art Without Men, destined for the bookcases of art history and cultural studies students everywhere.