Significant Others

By Team Coco

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Category: History

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Subscribers: 305
Reviews: 1

Shaun from Maine
 Aug 14, 2022
Awesome concept for a podcast and super well done and researched! Highly recommend! Love the O'Brien's


Did you know that the novel "Lolita" would not exist if Vladimir Nabokov’s wife hadn’t stopped her husband from burning the manuscript? Or that Gandhi learned his legendary method of passive resistance from his wife? Or that the person responsible for Maya Angelou’s genre-defining memoir was her good friend James Baldwin? Significant Others is a narrated, nonfiction podcast about folks just beyond the spotlight of history. Each episode tells the story of a talented, difficult and little-known individual who altered the destiny of their better-known partner, child, sibling, or friend, and impacted the world they left behind. Narrated and written by Liza Powel O’Brien and featuring the voices of Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Jameela Jamil, Rita Wilson, Timothy Olyphant, Lisa Kudrow and many more.

Episode Date
Bonus Episode: Stacy Schiff on Samuel Adams

Significant Others is back with a bonus episode! Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Stacy Schiff returns to discuss her new book The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams, which examines the essential (and somewhat forgotten) role of Samuel Adams during the Revolutionary War. Liza and Stacy explore why he has become more known as “the beer guy” than for his contributions to the cause, and ask - was Samuel Adams the Significant Other of the American Revolution? 

We’re working hard on Season 2! Until then, we will be releasing special bonus episodes from time to time. Want to support the show? Rate and review wherever you listen to your podcasts and keep sending suggestions of Significant Others you’d like to hear about our way!

Dec 01, 2022
Malcolm Gladwell on Dr. Spock

Best-selling author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell joins Liza to discuss the concept of “celebrity doctors” and the destructive dynamic between the famous Dr. Spock and his complicated wife Jane.

Sep 08, 2022
Jane Cheney Spock

The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care altered parenting forever and made Dr. Benjamin Spock a household name. But his wife Jane, who not only helped him get the book down on paper but introduced him to the very concepts that were so revolutionary in his work, was ruined by his success.


Source List:

Dr. Spock, An American Life, by Thomas Maier

​​Doctor Spock: Biography of a Conservative Radical, by Lynn Z. Bloom

“Public vs. Private: Dr. Spock, Mr. Hyde,” by Mary Jo Kochakian

“Parents and Dr. Spock”, American Archive of Public Broadcasting

“The Man Who Raised America,” by Susan Bolotin

“The Spocks: Bittersweet. Recognition in a Revised Classic,” by Judy Klemesrud

“Jane C. Spock, 82, Worked on Baby Book,” The New York Times

Christian Nurture, by Horace Bushnell

Horace Bushnell, Britannica 

“The Personal Spock: The Controversial Doctor Recalls His Childhood, Which Was Influenced by a Domineering Mother,” by Elizabeth Mehren


Sep 07, 2022
Julie Lythcott-Haims on Sir Leslie Stephen

Parenting expert Julie Lythcott-Haims sits down with Liza to explore what parents should and shouldn’t want for their children; and whether or not Sir Leslie Stephen may have gotten some things right.

Sep 01, 2022
Sir Leslie Stephen

Virginia Woolf’s father, Sir Leslie Stephen, wanted nothing more than to be a genius—but he created one instead.

Starring: Jameela Jamil as Virginia Woolf and Luke Millington-Drake as Sir Leslie Stephen.


Source List:

“Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen: History and Literary Revolution,” by Katherine C. Hill

To The Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf

A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf

A Writer’s Diary, by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, by Hermione Lee

The Common Reader, by Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf, Quentin Bell

“A House of One’s Own,” by Janet Malcolm

“A Beautiful Mind - Laura Makepeace Stephen and the Earlswood Asylum Medical Archives,” by Dr. Madeleine Oakley

Bloomsbury Group

“Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen,” by Louise A. DeSalvo

Rob Roy, by Sir Walter Scott

Aug 31, 2022
Mark Harris on Molly Day Thacher and Elia Kazan

Journalist and biographer Mark Harris joins Liza to discuss the legacy of Elia Kazan and whether or not there is such a thing as a happy ending in Hollywood.

Aug 25, 2022
Molly Day Thacher

Legendary filmmaker Elia Kazan gave us such cinematic classics as On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire, but he made himself a pariah when he named names to the government. Without his wife, Molly Day Thacher, he might never have made his controversial decision–nor even had a career to begin with.

Starring: Lisa Kudrow as Molly Day Thacher and Paul F. Tompkins as Elia Kazan. Also featuring: Jack McBrayer, Jim Rash, Adam O’Byrne and Larry Powell.


Source List:

A Life, by Elia Kazan

Elia Kazan, by Richard Schickel

Tennessee Williams & Elia Kazan: A Collaboration in the Theatre, by Brenda Murphy

Tennessee Williams, Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, by John Lahr

“A Statement”, by Elia Kazan

“You Must Remember This” Podcast

Aug 24, 2022
W. Kamau Bell on James Baldwin and Maya Angelou

Author and comedian W. Kamau Bell joins Liza to discuss the legacies of Maya Angelou and James Baldwin, and the importance of affinity groups.




Aug 18, 2022
James Baldwin and Maya Angelou

Without the profound connection between these two artists, would the world ever have gotten I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings?

 Starring: Christina Elmore as Maya Angelou and Larry Powell as James Baldwin. Also starring Angelica Chéri as Lorraine Hansberry.


Source List:

James Baldwin: A Biography, By David Adams Leeming

The Three Mothers, by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin

At 80, Maya Angelou Reflects on a ‘Glorious’ Life, NPR, 2008

The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou, Compilation copyright 2004 by Random House, Inc.

Conversations With a Native Son

James Baldwin Biographical Timeline, American Masters, PBS

Maya Angelou, World History Project

James Baldwin’s Sexuality: Complex and Influential, NBC News

“James Baldwin on Langston Hughes”The Langston Hughes Review, James Baldwin and Clayton Riley 

“Talking Back to Maya Angelou”, by Hilton Als, The New Yorker

“Songbird”, by Hilton Als, The New Yorker

“A Brother’s Love”, by Maya Angelou

“James Baldwin Denounced Richard Wright’s ‘Native Son’ as a ‘Protest Novel,’ Was he Right?” by Ayana Mathis and Pankaj Mishra, The New York Times

“After a 30 Year Absence, the Controversial ‘Porgy and Bess’ is Returning to the Met Opera”, by Brigit Katz, Smithsonian Magazine

“Published More Than 50 Years Ago, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ Launched a Revolution”, by Veronica Chambers, Smithsonian Magazine

“On the Horizon: On Catfish Row”, by James Baldwin

“James Baldwin: Great Writers of the 20th Century” 

“An Introduction to James Baldwin”, National Museum of African American History & Culture

“‘The Blacks,’ Landmark Off-Broadway Show, Gets 42nd Anniversary Staging, Jan 31”, by Robert Simonson, Playbill

 “Do the White Thing”, by Brian Logan

“James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket”, American Masters, PBS

“James Baldwin, The Art of Fiction”, by Jordan Elgrably

“The American Dream and the American Negro”, by James Baldwin

“The History That James Baldwin Wanted America to See”, by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

“Lost and ... Found?: James Baldwin’s Script and Spike Lee’s ‘Malcolm X.’” by D. Quentin Miller, African American Review

Aug 17, 2022
Stacy Schiff on the Nabokovs

Biographer Stacy Schiff joins Liza to discuss the lengths she went to in researching her Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Véra.


A full list of Stacy Schiff’s books can be found here:

Aug 11, 2022
Véra Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov is best known for writing the highly controversial yet critically revered novel, Lolita. But the book might never have made it onto the shelves were it not for the other Nabokov—Vladimir's enigmatic and elusive wife, Véra.

Starring: D’Arcy Carden as Véra Nabokov and Dan Bucatinsky as Vladimir Nabokov


Source list:

Véra by Stacy Schiff

Letters to Véra by Vladimir Nabokov, Ed: Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd

Vladimir Nabokov, The Russian Years by Brian Boyd

Vladimir Nabokov, The American Years by Brian Boyd

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov, Ed: Fredson Bowers


Aug 10, 2022
Conan O’Brien on the Lincolns

Liza is joined by her significant other, self-proclaimed Lincoln super-fan Conan O’Brien, to discuss how crucial Mary Lincoln was to her husband's political career.

Aug 04, 2022
Mary Lincoln

Mary Lincoln is the First Lady everyone loves to hate. But without her, would Abe Lincoln even have been president in the first place? Theirs is a love story that contains many tragedies—and a key to how America became the country it is today. 
Starring: Rita Wilson as Mary Lincoln and Timothy Olyphant as Abraham Lincoln. Also featuring Matt Gourley and Mike Sweeney.

Source List:

Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Miller Center, The University of Virginia,

The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage, by Daniel Mark Epstein

Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography, by Jean H. Baker

“Lincoln’s Looks Never Hindered His Approach to Life or Politics,” by Susan Bell, USC News

“Mary Todd Lincoln, Patient at Bellevue Place, Batavia.” by Rodney A. Ross., Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

“Acts of Remembrance: Mary Todd Lincoln and Her Husband’s Memory.” by Jennifer L. Bach, Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association

“New Mary Lincoln Letter Discovered.” by Jason Emerson, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Aug 03, 2022
Dipika Guha on the Gandhis

Playwright Dipika Guha joins Liza to give insight into the complicated relationship between her home country of India and Gandhi's legacy in this time of call-out culture.

Jul 28, 2022
Kasturba Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi helped India win independence from Britain through nonviolent resistance but little know that he credits the inspiration for his tactics to his wife, Kasturba. So, who was the wife of this renowned saint?

Starring Dipika Guha as Kasturba Gandhi and Samrat Chakrabarti as Mohandas Gandhi.


Source List:

The Woman Beside Gandhi: A Biography of Kasturba, Wife of the Mahatma, by Sita Kapadia

Gandhi on Women, by Madhu Kishwar, Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 20, no. 41

Why Mahatma Gandhi Said Kasturba Stood Above Him, Prabhash K Dutta, New Delhi, October 2, 2018

The Truth About Gandhi, The Harvard Crimson

Petty, Bad-Tempered Kasturba - What Gandhi Said While Courting Sarladevi and Esther Faerling, B.M. Bhalla, March 19, 2020

The Story of My Experiments With Truth, by Mohandas Karamchad Gandhi

MAHATMA, In Eight Volumes, by D.G. Tendulkar

Kasturba: A Biography, By B.M. Bhalla

Gandhi Was a Racist Who Forced Young Girls to Sleep in Bed With Him, by Mayukh Sen, December 3, 2015, Vice

Kasturba Gandhi, The Feisty Woman Whose Patience Inspired Gandhi's Call For Satyagraha, by Simrin Sirur, April 11, 2019, The Print



Jul 27, 2022
Esther Perel on The Tolstoys

World-renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel joins Liza to discuss the dynamic between Leo and Sophia Tolstoy and whether the issues Sophia faced were a product of the times she lived in.

This bonus episode is a discussion of Episode 1 of Significant Others, "Countess Sophia Tolstoy." Listen to it here

Jul 21, 2022
Countess Sophia Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. Yet, without his wife, Sophia Tolstoy, would the world have been gifted with such literary classics as War and Peace and Anna Karenina? Starring Megan Mullally as Countess Sophia Tolstoy and Nick Offerman as Leo Tolstoy.

Source List:
Tolstoy, A Biography by A.N. Wilson, 1988 WW Norton & Co
Song Without Words: The Photographs & Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy by Leah Bendavid-Val, National Geographic Society
Leo Tolstoy, Diaries, Faber, Ed. R.F. Christian
Tolstoy, Woman and Death by David Holbrook, Farleigh Dickinson University Press
The Diaries of Sophia Tolstoy, Cathy Porter, Harper Collins

Jul 20, 2022
Introducing Significant Others from Team Coco

Did you know that the novel "Lolita" would not exist if Vladimir Nabokov’s wife hadn’t stopped her husband from burning the manuscript? Or that Gandhi learned his legendary method of passive resistance from his wife? Alongside any famous name, there is often another story to tell—of an intimate relationship that made all the difference. Starting July 20th, join Liza Powel O’Brien as she explores the stories of the little-known individuals just beyond the spotlight of history. Because no one lives in a vacuum—not even geniuses.


Jul 12, 2022