In the second installment of my feature about fabulous female-led history podcasts, the Hisdoryan blog shines a spotlight on the Sistory Untold Podcast – a unique podcast hosted by sisters Marva and Sabrina that looks at history through the eyes of sisterhood.
A few months into the 2020 quarantine that seemed like it would never end, we decided to do something with all our extra time aside from binge-watching Netflix. We had always been fascinated by stories of sisterhood, perhaps because we come from a long line of fearsome sisterhoods on both sides of our family.
Growing up, we watched Little Women and Pride and Prejudice religiously. We have also both always had a love for history (even though in university Sabrina studied English and Marva studied Dance). We are most passionate about diverse, inclusive, and accessible history. So when the time came to create our podcast, the topic seemed obvious! We decided to explore history through the eyes of sisterhood. Now, we record weekly podcasts to teach each other (and our listeners!) about notable sisterhoods throughout sistory.*
Sistories we love
Every week, we find a new pair of women to become obsessed with. Here’s a sampling of the women we love so far, and what they have taught us about history:
Focusing on women and their relationships instead of the men they were associated with has allowed us to unearth so many fascinating stories. In most of our episodes, there is one woman who outshines the other. Perhaps because both their contemporary writers and modern day researchers just can’t handle the idea of there being two equally influential women in the same place at the same time. Whether it’s Madame C.J. Walker and Annie Turnbo Malone or Mary Shelley and Claire Clairmont, many of our sisterhoods feature one household name and one forgotten sister. Even sisters whose stories have been revived by pop culture—like the Schuyler sisters in Hamilton— we find that some sisters, despite their major contributions to history, are left in the dusty pages of diaries and journals. (Alas—poor Peggy!) For that reason, I tend to love the sisters who I would otherwise know nothing about if it were not for this podcast. I think my favorite sisters we have covered so far are Madame C.J. Walker and Annie Turnbo Malone, because I had always heard of the former being the first black millionaire and first female millionaire in the U.S.. I was so inspired by her, and was so excited to see her story retold in Netflix’s Self Made. However, once I found out that she stole her product idea from her mentor and employer Annie, I quickly switched sides and learned all I could about Annie.
I have slightly different taste; my favorite women are “bad girls.” Whether it’s Matilda Plantagenet who led a rebellion against her own cousin in pursuit of the throne or Kitty Fisher who used her womanly charms to seduce society’s elite, I love a story of a woman clawing her way to the top. Admittedly, my favourite woman changes practically with every episode because history is full of bad girls, dangerous women, and femmes fatales. There is a lot to learn from the bad girls of history—how to lead, how to succeed, and, most importantly, how not to get caught. Plus, like goes with like, and I’m very aware that if I were held to the same standards of women in the past, I definitely would not be considered one of the good ones… but then again, who would?
Why we podcast
We like podcasting in particular—rather than devoting more energy to our social media or blog—because we think that simple conversation is the easiest way to learn lots about lots. And that’s what we hope our listeners can do through our podcast! Oral tradition is how stories were passed down for generations. And even during our favorite period, the 18th century, families and friends would gather together to read out loud or discuss controversial topics (stay tuned for our episode on the Blue Stockings Society for more on that!). We of course have our own reasons too:
I have been a performer all my life, but with Covid-19 taking away my stage, I needed a new platform and audience to feed my soul. Podcasting gave me that from the comfort of my home.
I’m a big fan of passive consumption of knowledge, like watching documentaries, attending lectures and book talks, and, of course, listening to podcasts! So I love being able to be on the creating end for once. I like that we are creating something so that people can really easily learn about women and sisterhoods without putting in much effort or taking time out of their day to do so.
Down the road, we hope to build a podcast empire. Just kidding… kind of. We don’t expect to be crowned as the Queens of Podcasting anytime soon, but we do love the idea of growing our audience and bringing together people with a passion for women’s history through the Sisterhood, a membership-based discussion group and book club. In the post-Covid world, we dream of having live shows and leading tours with our listeners based on trips the sisters in our podcast have made.
If you want to help lay down some building blocks to our empire, you can start by checking out our podcast! We are available anywhere you get your podcasts, but here are the most popular places people listen:
*An entirely made up term used to describe the history of sisters.
P.S. Don’t forget to check out some of the other fab history podcasts already featured, like Hashtag History.