We Heart: The Podcast Telling the Stories of “Cool Dead Women”

It’s important to know our “foremothers,” as Virginia Woolf advised us—and, today, we all know her name.

But what about Leonie von Zesch, a dog-sledding Alaskan dentist who cleaned cavities with hairpins? What about Alice Ball, the African American woman who discovered a cure for leprosy in Hawaii when she was only 24—only to have her Ivy-League professor steal the credit?

The truth is that some women are canonized—but too many are lost to history. That’s where we come in.

Alice Ball is one of many “Cool Dead Women” featured in a new feminist history podcast produced and hosted by a mother-daughter duo.

In the first season of our new podcast, “Cool Dead Women,” we highlight 10 women (all cool, of course, and and all dead) who bucked convention and refused to be confined by their times. “Cool Dead Women” is our effort to champion the lives and tell the stories of women like Una Marson—the first Caribbean woman writer of significance, who fought depression her entire life—and Betty Pack—a spy who used “sexpionage” to help the Allied cause in World War II.

We’re a mother-daughter duo with diverse interests—daughter Blair in art, film and music; mother Erika moreso in literature and history—but we share a fascination with feminist archaeology, and we’re on a unified mission to rescue these women’s lives from oblivion.

We’ve already done the hard part. We’ve scrutinized and amplified the women’s lives by interviewing scholars, film-makers and librarians; we’ve hunted down doctoral dissertations and out-of-print autobiographies; we’ve studied birth certificates and watched rare film footage.

Now it’s up to you to listen and share these women’s stories to make sure they get heard. And along the way, we’re willing to bet you’ll even uncover some inspiration.

Erika Waters was the founding editor of The Caribbean Writer, a literary magazine from the University of the Virgin Islands where she is a professor emeritus. She has a Ph.D. in Post-Colonial Literature, specializing in recovery research in women’s literature, and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Tulsa Center for the Study of Women’s Literature and was a Fulbright Scholar.

Blair Waters grew up on St. Croix and is now a director based in Brooklyn. Her videos have been MTV Hits of the Week, featured in the New York Times and part of Clio-Award winning campaigns. She’s had a life-long obsession with music—as a music journalist for national publications like NYLON and now, as an internationally charting solo artist.

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