Women in music

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This article is about women in music. For the Women in Music newsletter, see Women in Music (periodical).
American jazz singer and songwriter Billie Holiday in New York City in 1947.
Bonnie Raitt is an American singer, guitar player and piano player. A winner of ten Grammy awards, she is also noted for her slide guitar playing.

Women in music describes the role of women as composers, songwriters, instrumental performers, singers, conductors, music scholars, music educators, music critics/music journalists and other musical professions. As well, it describes music movements, events and genres related to women, women's issues and feminism. In the 2010s, while women comprise a significant proportion of popular music and classical music singers, and a significant proportion of songwriters (many of them being singer-songwriters), there are few women record producers, rock critics and rock instrumentalists. Although there have been a huge number of women composers in classical music, from the Medieval period to the present day, women composers are significantly underrepresented in the commonly performed classical music repertoire, music history textbooks and music encyclopedias; for example, in the Concise Oxford History of Music, Clara Schumann is one of the only female composers who is mentioned.

Women comprise a significant proportion of instrumental soloists in classical music and the percentage of women in orchestras is increasing. A 2015 article on concerto soloists in major Canadian orchestras, however, indicated that 84% of the soloists with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal were men. In 2012, women still made up just 6% of the top-ranked Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. Women are less common as instrumental players in popular music genres such as rock and heavy metal, although there have been a number of notable female instrumentalists and all-female bands. Women are particularly underrepresented in extreme metal genres.[1] Women are also underrepresented in orchestral conducting, music criticism/music journalism, music producing, and sound engineering. While women were discouraged from composing in the 19th century, and there are few women musicologists, women became involved in music education "...to such a degree that women dominated [this field] during the later half of the 19th century and well into the 20th century."[2]

According to Jessica Duchen, a music writer for London’s The Independent, women musicians in classical music are "...too often judged for their appearances, rather than their talent" and they face pressure "...to look sexy onstage and in photos."[3] Duchen states that while "[t]here are women musicians who refuse to play on their looks,...the ones who do tend to be more materially successful."[3] According to the UK's Radio 3 editor, Edwina Wolstencroft, the music industry has long been open to having women in performance or entertainment roles, but women are much less likely to have positions of authority, such as being the leader of an orchestra.[4] In popular music, while there are many women singers recording songs, there are very few women behind the audio console acting as music producers, the individuals who direct and manage the recording process.[5]


Songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist Ani DiFranco has had a lot of artistic freedom during her career, in part because she founded her own record label, Righteous Babe. She has become a feminist icon and is a supporter of many social causes.

'[l]ike most aspects of the...music business, [in the 1960s,] songwriting was a male-dominated field. Though there were plenty of female singers on the radio, women ...were primarily seen as consumers:... Singing was sometimes an acceptable pastime for a girl, but playing an instrument, writing songs, or producing records simply wasn’t done...[and women] were not socialized to see themselves as people who create [music].'

Erika Abrams in Rebeat, January 28, 2015

A songwriter is an individual who writes the lyrics, melodies and chord progressions for songs, typically for a popular music genre such as pop, rock or country music. A songwriter can also be called a composer, although the latter term tends to be mainly used for individuals from the classical music genre.

19th century-early 20th century[edit]

"Only a few of the many women [songwriters] in America had their music published and heard during the late 19th and early 20th centuries."[2] According to Richard A. Reublin and Richard G. Beil, the "...lack of mention of women [songwriters] is a glaring and embarrassing omission in our musical heritage."[2] Women "...struggled to write and publish music in the man's world of 20th century Tin Pan Alley. Prior to 1900 and even after 1900, it was expected that "...women would perform music, not make music."[2] In 1880, Chicago music critic George P. Upton wrote the book Women In Music, in which he argued that "...women lacked the innate creativity to compose good music" due to the "biological predisposition" of women.[2] Later, it was accepted that women would have a role in music education, and they became involved in this field "...to such a degree that women dominated music education during the later half of the 19th century and well into the 20th century."[2] As part of women's role in music education, women wrote hymns and children's music. The "secular music in print in America before 1825 shows only about 70 works by women." In the mid 19th century, notable women songwriters emerged, including Faustina Hasse Hodges, Susan Parkhurst, Augusta Browne and Marion Dix Sullivan. By 1900, there were many more women songwriters, but "....many were still forced to use pseudonyms or initials" to hide the fact that they were women.[2]

Carrie Jacobs-Bond was the "...preeminent woman composer of the late 1800's and well into the middle of the twentieth century,...[making her] the first million selling woman" songwriter.[2] Maude Nugent (1877–1958) wrote "Sweet Rosie O'Grady" in 1896. She also penned "Down At Rosie Reilly's Flat", "My Irish Daisy" and "Mary From Tipperary".[2] Charlotte Blake (1885–1979) was a staff writer for at the Whitney Warner Publishing Co., in Detroit, Michigan. Initially, the company billed her as "C. Blake" to hide her gender, but by 1906 ads used her full name.[2] Caro Roma (1866–1937) was the gender-ambiguous pseudonym for Carrie Northly. She "...was one of America's more well known and popular composers of the Tin Pan Alley era." Her songs include "Can't Yo' Heah Me Calling", "Faded Rose", "The Angelus", "Thinking of Thee" and "Resignation".[2] About 95% of the songwriters in British music hall during the early 1900s were men; however, about 30% of the singers were women.[6]

Jazz in the 20th century[edit]

While jazz songwriting has long been a male-dominated field, there have been a few notable women jazz songwriters. In the 1930s, Ann Ronell (1905–1993) wrote several hit songs. She is known for her 1932 hit song "Willow Weep for Me" and the 1933 Disney song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?".[7] Irene Higginbotham (1918–1988) wrote almost 50 songs, her best-known being "Good Morning Heartache".[7] Dorothy Fields (1905–1974) wrote the lyrics for over 400 songs, some of which were played by Duke Ellington. She co-wrote "The Way You Look Tonight" with Jerome Kern, which won the 1936 Oscar for Best Song. She co-wrote several jazz standards with Jimmy McHugh, such as "Exactly Like You," "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "I Can't Give You Anything But Love."[7] Lil Hardin Armstrong (1898–1971) played piano in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band. Her most famous song, "Struttin' with Some Barbecue" has been recorded 500 times. Her other notable songs are "Doin' the Suzie Q," "Just for a Thrill" and "Bad Boy".[7] While Billie Holiday (1915–1959) is best known as a singer, she co-wrote "God Bless the Child" and "Don't Explain" with Arthur Herzog, Jr. and she penned the blues song "Fine and Mellow."[7]

Pop in the 1960s[edit]

In the 1960s pop music scene, "[l]ike most aspects of the...music business, [in the 1960s,] songwriting was a male-dominated field. Though there were plenty of female singers on the radio, women ...were primarily seen as consumers:... Singing was sometimes an acceptable pastime for a girl, but playing an instrument, writing songs, or producing records simply wasn’t done." [8] Young women "...were not socialized to see themselves as people who create [music]."[8] Carole King "...had a successful songwriting partnershi[p] with husband Gerry Goffin, penning hits like "The Loco-Motion," "Will You Love Me Tomorrow", "Up on the Roof" and "Natural Woman". "King was the first female recipient of the 2013 Gershwin Prize for Popular Song."[8] Ellie Greenwich and her husband Jeff Barry wrote "Then He Kissed Me","Be My Baby" and "River Deep, Mountain High". Laura Nyro penned "Wedding Bell Blues", "Eli's Coming" and "And When I Die". She stated "I'm not interested in conventional limitations when it comes to my songwriting….I may bring a certain feminist perspective to my songwriting."[8]

Musical theatre[edit]

In musical theatre, "...female songwriters are rare in an industry dominated by males on the creative end. Work by male songwriters is more often produced, and it was only [in 2015] that an all-female writing team made history by winning the Tony Award for Best Score."[9] In 2015, for the first time, an all-female writing team of Lisa Kron (Best Book) and Jeanine Tesori and Kron (Best Original Score)[10] won the Tony Award for Best Score for Fun Home, although work by male songwriters continues to be produced more often.[11] In 2013, Cyndi Lauper was the "first female composer to win the [Tony for] Best Score without a male collaborator" for writing the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots.[10] Notable female songwriters in musical theatre include singer-songwriter and actress Lauren Pritchard, who wrote Songbird, Zoe Sarnak, who wrote A Lasting Impression and The Years Between and Katie Thompson, who would like to "...see women characters...that are complicated and strong and vulnerable."[12] Thompson stated that in the musical theatre industry, "...when you fight for something as a woman, especially an artistic thing ..you are either perceived as being a bitch or you are perceived [as] 'emotional'", a label that enables others to dismiss you.[12]

Abbey Lincoln (1930 –2010), was an American jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress, who wrote and performed her own compositions. She was a civil rights advocate during the 1960s.[13][14]

Black women[edit]

According to LaShonda Katrice Barnett, a college and university teacher and author of a book on black women songwriters, of the "... over 380 members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, just 2 are black women (Sylvia Moy and Valerie Simpson)". Barnett asks "[w]hy are there so few prominent black women songwriters?"[15] Barnett states that two important black women songwriters are Abbey Lincoln, a rare example of a jazz singer who wrote her own albums and Cassandra Wilson, who records both her own songs and "covers" of famous artists.[15]

Notable songwriters[edit]

Below is a selection of notable songwriters. Many of these individuals are singer-songwriters who also famous for their singing and/or instrumental performance skills, but they are listed here for their accomplishments in songwriting:


Nineteenth-century composer and pianist Clara Schumann.

American musicologist Marcia Citron has asked "[w]hy is music composed by women so marginal to the standard 'classical' repertoire?"[16] Citron "examines the practices and attitudes that have led to the exclusion of women composers from the received 'canon' of performed musical works." She argues that in the 1800s, women composers typically wrote art songs for performance in small recitals rather than symphonies intended for performance with an orchestra in a large hall, with the latter works being seen as the most important genre for composers; since women composers did not write many symphonies, they were deemed to be not notable as composers.[16]

According to Abbey Philips, "women musicians have had a very difficult time breaking through and getting the credit they deserve."[17] During the Medieval eras, most of the art music was created for liturgical (religious) purposes and due to the views about the roles of women that were held by religious leaders, few women composed this type of music, with the nun Hildegard von Bingen being among the exceptions. Most university textbooks on the history of music discuss almost exclusively the role of male composers. As well, very few works by women composers are part of the standard repertoire of classical music. In the Concise Oxford History of Music, Clara Schumann is the only woman composer who is mentioned.[17] Philips states that "[d]uring the 20th century the women who were composing/playing gained far less attention than their male counterparts."[17]

Medieval era[edit]

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Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, composer, writer, philosopher, and visionary.[18] One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama and an early morality play.[19] Sixty-nine musical compositions, each with its own original poetic text, survive. This is one of the largest repertoires among medieval composers. Hildegard composed many liturgical songs that were collected into a cycle called the Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum. The songs from the Symphonia are set to Hildegard's own text and range from antiphons, hymns, and sequences, to responsories.[20] Her music is described as monophonic, using soaring melodies that pushed the boundaries of the more traditional Gregorian chant.

Renaissance era[edit]

Maddalena Casulana (1544–1590) was an Italian composer, lutenist and singer.[21] Her first work dates from 1566: four madrigals in a collection, Il Desiderio, which she produced in Florence. Two years later she published in Venice her first book of madrigals for four voices, Il primo libro di madrigali, which is the first printed, published work by a woman in Western music history.[22] She was close to Isabella de' Medici and dedicated some of her music to her. In 1570, 1583 and 1586 she published other books of madrigals. In the dedication to her first book of madrigals, she shows her feelings about being a female composer at a time when this was rare: "[I] want to show the world, as much as I can in this profession of music, the vain error of men that they alone possess the gifts of intellect and artistry, and that such gifts are never given to women." Her style is contrapuntal and chromatic and her melodic lines are singable and attentive to the text. Other composers of the time, such as Philippe de Monte, thought highly of her.

Caterina Assandra (1590–1618) was an Italian people composer and Benedictine nun. She became famous as an organist and published various works.[23][24] Assandra composed a number of motets and organ pieces. She studied counterpoint with Benedetto Re, one of the leading teachers at Pavia Cathedral. She composed a collection of motets in the new concertato style in Milan in 1609, an imitative eight-voice Salve Regina in 1611, and a motet, Audite verbum Dominum, for four voices in 1618. She composed traditional pieces and more innovative works. Among the latter is Duo seraphim. Her motet O Salutaris hodie, included in Motetti op. 2, was one of the first pieces to include the violone, a bowed stringed instrument.

Baroque era[edit]

The Lute Player by Orazio Gentileschi, presumed to be a portrait of Francesca Caccini.

Francesca Caccini (1587–1641) was an Italian composer, singer, lutenist, poet, and music teacher. Her singing for the wedding of Henry IV of France and Maria de Medici in 1600 was praised by Henry, who called her the "best singer in all of France". She worked in the Medici court as a teacher, chamber singer, rehearsal coach and composer of both chamber and stage music until 1627. By 1614 she was the court's most highly paid musician, because her musical virtuosity so well exemplified an idea of female excellence projected by Tuscany's de facto Regent, Granduchess Christina of Lorraine. Most of her stage music was composed for performance in comedies. In 1618 she published a collection of thirty-six solo songs and soprano/bass duets. In 1625 she composed a 75-minute "comedy-ballet". In all, she wrote sixteen staged works. She was a master of dramatic harmonic surprise: in her music it is harmony changes, more than counterpoint, that most powerfully communicates emotional affect.

Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677) was an Italian Baroque composer and singer. As a child, her considerable vocal talents were displayed to a wide audience. She was also compositionally gifted, and her father arranged for her to study with composer Francesco Cavalli. Strozzi was said to be "the most prolific composer – man or woman – of printed secular vocal music in Venice in the Middle of the century."[25] Her output is also unique in that it only contains secular vocal music, with the exception of one volume of sacred songs.[26] She was renowned for her poetic ability as well as her compositional talent. Her lyrics were often poetic and well-articulated.[27] Nearly three-quarters of her printed works were written for soprano, but she also published works for other voices.[28] Her compositions are firmly rooted in the seconda pratica tradition. Strozzi's music evokes the spirit of Cavalli, heir of Monteverdi. However, her style is more lyrical, and more dependent on sheer vocal sound.[29] Many of the texts for her early pieces were written by her father Giulio. Later texts were written by her father's colleagues, and for many compositions she may have written her own texts.

Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665–1729) was a French composer, musician and harpsichordist. She was born into a family of musicians and master instrument-makers. A child prodigy, she performed on the harpsichord before King Louis XIV. She became a musician in the Royal Court and taught, composed, and gave concerts at home and throughout Paris, to great acclaim.[30] She was one of the few well-known female composers of her time, and unlike many of her contemporaries, she composed in a wide variety of forms.[31] Her talent and achievements were acknowledged by Titon du Tillet, who accorded her a place on his Mount Parnassus when she was only 26 years old, next to Lalande and Marais and directly below Lully. Her works include a ballet, an opera (Céphale et Procris), trio sonatas, harpsichord pieces, Sonates pour le viollon et pour le clavecin and vocal works such as her Cantates françoises sur des sujets tirez de l'Ecriture.

Classical era[edit]

Harriett Abrams (1758–1821) was an English composer and soprano. As a singer, she was praised for her performances of George Frideric Handel. She studied singing, music theory, and composition with composer Thomas Arne before making her opera début in 1775 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. Abrams became a principal singer at the fashionable London concerts and provincial festivals, appearing regularly from 1780–1790. Abrams composed several songs, two of which, "The Orphan's Prayer" and "Crazy Jane", became popular. She published two sets of Italian and English canzonets, a collection of Scottish songs and glees harmonized for two and three voices, and more than a dozen songs, mainly sentimental ballads. A collection of songs published in 1803 was dedicated by Harriett to Queen Charlotte.[32]

Maria Teresa Agnesi (1720–1795) was an Italian composer. Though she was most famous for her compositions, she was also an accomplished harpsichordist and singer. The majority of her surviving compositions were written for keyboard, the voice, or both. Her career was made possible by the Austrian Lombardy, which was progressive and enlightened in women's rights. Her patron was Maria Theresia, holy Roman Empress and sovereign of Lombardy, and Maria Antonia Walpurgis, a gifted composer and contemporary. Her early works are simple and clean, while her later works are more virtuosic, complex, and melodramatic. She composed operas, including heroic drama and serious drama styles. She also wrote arias, concertos and sonatas for keyboard, small ensemble and voice.

Princess Anna Amalia (1723–1787) was a Prussian composer and score curator. She learned to play the harpsichord, flute, and violin as a young woman. She became the Abbess of Quedlinburg in 1755.[33] She spent most of her time in Berlin, where she devoted herself to music, and became a musical patron and composer. As a composer she achieved a modest amount of fame and is most known for her smaller chamber works, which included trios, marches, cantatas, songs and fugues. In 1758, she studied musical theory and composition with Johann Philipp Kirnberger, a student of Johann Sebastian Bach. She composed chamber music such as flute sonatas. More She set the text of Ramler's Passion cantata Der Tod Jesu ("The Death of Jesus") to music. She was also a collector of music, preserving over 600 volumes of works by Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Georg Philipp Telemann, Karl Heinrich Graun and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, among others. Her works of curation are a significant contribution to Western culture.

Princess Anna Amalia (1723–1787) was a Prussian composer and score curator known for her chamber works, which included trios, marches, cantatas, songs and fugues.

Elisabeth Olin (1740–1828) was a Swedish opera singer and composer. She debuted as Alfhild in Syrinx referred to as Sweden's first native Opera comique, at Bollhuset in 1747. She became a famed vocalist in the regular public concerts at Riddarhuset in Stockholm, and published her own compositions; she was one of the Swedish composers who wrote one composition each for the collection Gustaviade. En hjältedikt i tolv sånger ('Gustaviade. A heroic poem of twelve songs') from 1768; were she wrote the composition number eight.[34] At the inauguration performance and foundation of the Royal Swedish Opera on 18 January 1773, she sang the role of the Sea Goddess Thetis in Francesco Uttini's opera Thetis och Pélée.[35] She remained the primadonna of the Swedish opera for a decade. In 1773, she became the first female to be granted the title Hovsångare, and in 1782, she was inducted as the first female member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.[36]

Henriette Adélaïde Villard de Beaumesnil (1748–1813) was a French composer and opera singer. She began working in minor comedy roles from the age of seven and debuted as a soloist at the Paris Opera in 1766.[37][38] She was the second woman to have a composition performed at the Paris Opéra.[39] Previously the Paris Opera had staged the tragédie-lyrique Céphale et Procris by Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, in 1694. Anacréon, her first opera, received a private performance at the residence of the Count of Provence in 1781. In 1784, her opera Tibulle et Délie was performed at the Paris Opera. In 1792, her two-act opéra comique, Plaire, c'est commander was performed at the Théâtre Montansier.

Anna Bon (1739–1767?) was an Italian composer and performer. She attended the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice where she studied with the maestra di viola, Candida della Pièta.[40] She held the new post of 'chamber music virtuosa' at the court of Margrave Friedrich of Brandenburg Kulmbach. She dedicated her six op. 1 flute sonatas, published in Nürnberg in 1756, to Friedrich.[40] In 1762 she moved to the Esterházy court at Eisenstadt, where she remained until 1765. She dedicated the published set of six harpsichord sonatas, op. 2 (1757), to Ernestina Augusta Sophia, Princess of Saxe-Weimar, and the set of six divertimenti (trio sonatas), op. 3 (1759), to Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria.[41] She also wrote six divertimenti for two flutes and basso continuo; an aria, "Astra coeli," for soprano, 2 violins, viola, and basso continuo; an offertory, "Ardete amore," for singers, instruments and basso continuo; a motet, "Eia in preces et veloces," for alto, 2 violins, viola, and basso continuo and an opera.

Jane Mary Guest (1762–1846) was an English composer and pianist. A pupil of Johann Christian Bach, and initially composing in the galante style,[42] she composed keyboard sonatas, other keyboard works and vocal works with keyboard accompaniment.[43] She was piano teacher to Princess Amelia and Princess Charlotte of Wales.[44] She performed in London from 1779, giving subscription concerts there in 1783/84.[42] She was known for her expressive style of playing.[42] Around this time she published her Six Sonatas, Op. 1, which gained extensive subscriptions,[45] including from royalty, and which were also published in Paris in 1784 and Berlin in 1785.[44] In addition to her keyboard sonatas, she also composed other keyboard pieces, such as her Introduction and March from Rossini's Ricciardo e Zoraide (1820) and a number of songs with keyboard accompaniment.

Marianne von Martinez (1744–1812) was an Austrian composer, singer and pianist. Metastasio noticed her precocious talents and came to oversee her musical education, which included keyboard lessons from Haydn, singing lessons with Porpora and composition lessons with Johann Adolph Hasse and the Imperial court composer Giuseppe Bonno. She was a native speaker of both Italian and German and knew French and English.[46] As a child, she played for the Imperial court, where she "attracted attention with her beautiful voice and her keyboard playing."[47] As an adult, she was frequently asked to perform before the Empress Maria Theresa.[48] A number of the works that Marianna composed are set for solo voice. She wrote a number of secular cantatas and two oratorios to Italian texts. Surviving compositions include four masses, six motets, and three litanies for choir. She wrote in the Italian style, as was typical for the early Classical period in Vienna. Her harpsichord performance practice was compared to the style of C.P.E. Bach. Her Italian oratorio Isacco figura del redentore was premiered by massive forces in 1782.[49]

Romantic era[edit]

Fanny Mendelssohn, 1842, by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805–1847) was one of the best-known women composers of the 1800s. She showed prodigious musical ability as a child and began to write music. Even though famous visitors to her family home were equally impressed by Fanny and her brother Felix Mendelssohn, Fanny was limited by prevailing attitudes of the time toward women. Her father was tolerant, rather than supportive, of her activities as a composer. Her father wrote to her in 1820, telling her that "[m]usic will perhaps become his [i.e. Felix's] profession, while for you it can and must be only an ornament [in your life]".[50] Felix cautioned her against publishing her works under her own name and seeking a career in music. He wrote:

'From my knowledge of Fanny I should say that she has neither inclination nor vocation for [musical] authorship. She is too much all that a woman ought to be for this. She regulates her house, and neither thinks of the public nor of the musical world, nor even of music at all, until her first duties are fulfilled. Publishing would only disturb her in these, and I cannot say that I approve of it'.[51]

Clara Schumann (1819–1896) was a German composer and concert pianist who had a 61-year concert career, which changed the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public. From an early age, she had a one-hour lesson in piano, violin, singing, theory, harmony, composition, and counterpoint. In 1830, at the age of eleven, she had become a virtuoso soloist and she left on a concert tour of European cities. In the late 1830s, she performed to sell-out crowds and laudatory critical reviews. Frédéric Chopin described her playing to Franz Liszt, who came to hear one of her concerts and subsequently "praised her extravagantly" in a letter that was published in the Parisian Revue et Gazette Musicale.[52] She was named a Königliche und Kaiserliche Kammervirtuosin ("Royal and Imperial Chamber Virtuoso"), Austria's highest musical honor.[52]

She was also instrumental in changing the kind of programs expected of concert pianists. In her early career, before her marriage to Robert Schumann, she played what was then customary, mainly bravura pieces designed to showcase the artist's technique, often in the form of arrangements or variations on popular themes from operas, written by virtuosos such as Thalberg, Herz, or Henselt. As it was also customary to play one's own compositions, she included at least one of her own works in every program, works such as her Variations on a Theme by Bellini (Op. 8) and her popular Scherzo (Op. 10). Her works include songs, piano pieces, a piano concerto, a piano trio, choral pieces, and three Romances for violin and piano. Nevertheless, her husband was critical of her as a composer, a role that he believed a wife and mother could not properly take on:

'Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But to have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out'.

20th and 21st Century[edit]

Additional notable female composers are listed below. Some are also notable as performers (e.g., Amy Beach and Verdina Shlonsky were noted pianists). For a full list, please see List of female composers by birth year.

Instrumental performers[edit]

Popular music[edit]

Individuals and bandleaders[edit]

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973) was an electric guitarist and singer who was popular in the 1930s and 1940s with her gospel recordings.
Suzi Quatro is a singer, bassist and bandleader. When she launched her career in 1973, she was one of the few prominent women instrumentalists and bandleaders.

Women have a high prominence in many popular music styles as singers. However, professional women instrumentalists are uncommon in popular music, especially in rock genres such as heavy metal. "[P]laying in a band is largely a male homosocial activity, that is, learning to play in a band is largely a peer-based... experience, shaped by existing sex-segregated friendship networks.[53] As well, rock music "...is often defined as a form of male rebellion vis-à-vis female bedroom culture."[54] In popular music, there has been a gendered "distinction between public (male) and private (female) participation" in music.[54] "[S]everal scholars have argued that men exclude women from bands or from the bands'rehearsals, recordings, performances, and other social activities."[55] "Women are mainly regarded as passive and private consumers of allegedly slick, prefabricated – hence, inferior – pop music..., excluding them from participating as high status rock musicians."[55] One of the reasons that there are rarely mixed gender bands is that "bands operate as tight-knit units in which homosocial solidarity – social bonds between people of the same sex... – plays a crucial role."[55] In the 1960s pop music scene, "[s]inging was sometimes an acceptable pastime for a girl, but playing an instrument...simply wasn't done."[8]

"The rebellion of rock music was largely a male rebellion; the women—often, in the 1950s and '60s, girls in their teens—in rock usually sang songs as personæ utterly dependent on their macho boyfriends...". Philip Auslander says that "Although there were many women in rock by the late 1960s, most performed only as singers, a traditionally feminine position in popular music". Though some women played instruments in American all-female garage rock bands, none of these bands achieved more than regional success. So they "did not provide viable templates for women's on-going participation in rock".[56]:2–3 In relation to the gender composition of heavy metal bands, it has been said that "[h]eavy metal performers are almost exclusively male"[57] "...[a]t least until the mid-1980s" [58] apart from "...exceptions such as Girlschool."[57] However, "...now [in the 2010s] maybe more than ever–strong metal women have put up their dukes and got down to it",[59] "carv[ing] out a considerable place for [them]selves."[60] When Suzi Quatro emerged in 1973, "no other prominent female musician worked in rock simultaneously as a singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader".[56]:2 According to Auslander, she was "kicking down the male door in rock and roll and proving that a female musician ... and this is a point I am extremely concerned about ... could play as well if not better than the boys".[56]:3

A number of these artists are also notable for singing and songwriting, but they are listed here for their instrumental skills:

All-female bands and girl groups[edit]

An all-female band is a musical group in popular music genres such as rock, blues, jazz and related genres which is exclusively composed of female musicians. This is distinct from a girl group, in which the female members are solely vocalists, though this terminology is not universally followed.[61] While all-male bands are common in many rock and pop bands, all-female bands are less common.

A girl group is a music act featuring several female singers who generally harmonize together. The term "girl group" is also used in a narrower sense within English-speaking countries to denote the wave of American female pop music singing groups which flourished in the late 1950s and early 1960s between the decline of early rock and roll and the British Invasion, many of whom were influenced by doo-wop style.[62][63] All-female bands are sometimes also called girl groups.[64]

The Ingenues, from the short film Maids and Music, 1938


In the Jazz Age and during the 1930s, all-female bands such as The Blue Belles, the Parisian Redheads (later the Bricktops), Lil-Hardin's All-Girl Band, The Ingenues, The Harlem Playgirls, Phil Spitalny's Musical Sweethearts and "Helen Lewis and Her All-Girl Jazz Syncopators" were popular.Ina Ray Hutton led an all-girl band, the Melodears, from 1934 to 1939. Eunice Westmoreland, under the name Rita Rio, led an all-female band appearing on NBC Radio and for Vitaphone and RKO. A Polish group Filipinki was established in 1959.[65]

Groups composed solely of women began to emerge with the advent of rock and roll. Among the earliest all-female rock bands to be signed to a record label were Goldie & the Gingerbreads, to Atlantic Records in 1964, The Pleasure Seekers with Suzi Quatro to Hideout Records in 1964 and Mercury Records in 1968, The Feminine Complex to Athena Records in 1968, and Fanny (who pioneered the all-female band sound in the early to mid-1970s) in 1969 when Mo Ostin signed them to Warner Bros. Records. There were also others, such as The Liverbirds (1962–1967), the Ace of Cups (1967), The Heart Beats (1968), and Ariel (1968–1970).


In 1971 Fanny became the first all-female band to reach the Hot 100's top 40, with "Charity Ball" peaking at No. 40. In 1975, the Canadian duo of sisters, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, recorded the first of a string of albums. The Runaways were an early commercially successful, hard-edged, all-female hard rock band, releasing their first album in 1976: band members Joan Jett, Cherie Currie and Lita Ford all went on to solo careers. The 1980s, for the first time, saw long-sought chart success from all-female bands and female-fronted rock bands. On the Billboard Hot 100-year-end chart for 1982[66] Joan Jett's I Love Rock 'n' Roll at No. 3 and the Go-Go's We Got the Beat at No. 25 sent a message out to many industry heads that females who could play could bring in money.

Main article: Women in punk rock

In the United Kingdom, the advent of punk in the late 1970s with its "anyone can do it" ethos led to women making significant contributions.[67][68] In contrast to the rock music and heavy metal scenes of the 1970s, which were dominated by men, the anarchic, counter-cultural mindset of the punk scene in mid- and late 1970s encouraged women to participate. "That was the beauty of the punk thing," Chrissie Hynde later said." [Sexual] discrimination didn't exist in that scene."[69] This participation played a role in the historical development of punk music, especially in the U.S. and U.K. at that time, and continues to influence and enable future generations.[70]

Rock historian Helen Reddington states that the popular image of young punk women musicians as focused on the fashion aspects of the scene (fishnet stockings, spiky blond hair, etc.) was stereotypical. She states that many, if not most women punks were more interested in the ideology and socio-political implications, rather than the fashion.[71][72] Music historian Caroline Coon contends that before punk, women in rock music were virtually invisible; in contrast, in punk, she argues "[i]t would be possible to write the whole history of punk music without mentioning any male bands at all -- and I think a lot of [people] would find that very surprising."[73][74] Johnny Rotten wrote that ‘During the Pistols era, women were out there playing with the men, taking us on in equal terms ... It wasn’t combative, but compatible.’[75] Women were involved in bands such as The Slits, The Raincoats, Mo-dettes, and Dolly Mixture, The Innocents.

Others take issue with the notion of equal recognition, such as guitarist Viv Albertine, who stated that "the A&R men, the bouncers, the sound mixers, no one took us seriously.. So, no, we got no respect anywhere we went. People just didn't want us around."[76][77] The anti-establishment stance of punk opened the space for women who were treated like outsiders in a male-dominated industry. Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon states, "I think women are natural anarchists, because you're always operating in a male framework."[78]

Heavy metal[edit]
Girlschool is a British all-women heavy metal band formed in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal scene in 1978 and frequently associated with contemporaries Motörhead. They are the longest running all-female rock band, still active after more than 35 years.[79][80]

The all-female heavy metal band Girlschool, from South London, formed in 1978 out of the ashes of Painted Lady. While somewhat successful in the UK, they became better known in the early 1980s. One of the original members of the band, Kathy Valentine departed to join the all-female band The Go-Gos', switching from guitar to bass. Among Girlschool's early recordings was an EP titled "The St. Valentines Day Massacre" which they recorded with Bronze label-mates Motörhead under the name Headgirl. In 1974, The Deadly Nightshade, a rock/country band, was signed by Phantom.


In the 1990s, musician's magazines were starting to view female musicians more seriously, putting Bonnie Raitt[81][82] and Tina Weymouth[83] on their covers. While The Go-Go's and The Bangles, both from the LA club scene, were the first all-female rock bands to find sustained success, individual musicians paved the way for the industry to seek out bands that had female musicians.

In the 1990s, bands such as Hole, Super Heroines, The Lovedolls and L7 became popular, while demonstrating on stage, and in interviews, a self-confident and "bad" attitude at times, always willing to challenge assumptions about how an all-female band should behave. Courtney Love described the other females in Hole as using a more "lunar viewpoint" in their roles as musicians.[84] In the 1990s, the punk, female-led Riot Grrrl genre was associated with bands such as Bratmobile and Bikini Kill.


Mary Lou Williams (1910–1981) was a pianist, composer and arranger who played jazz, Classical and Gospel music. She wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements, and recorded more than one hundred records.

Historically, the majority of well-known women performers in jazz have been singers such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Diane Schuur and Dinah Washington. However, there are many notable instrumental performers. In some cases, these musicians are also composers and bandleaders:

There have also been all-female jazz bands such as The International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

World music[edit]

Bi Kidude (1910s–2013) was a Zanzibari-born Tanzanian Taarab singer. She has been called the "queen of Taarab and Unyago music".[85]

Women play an important role in world music, a musical category encompassing many different styles of music from around the world, including ethnic music and traditional music from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Asia, and other regions, indigenous music, neotraditional music, and music where more than one cultural tradition intermingle (e.g., mixtures of Western pop and ethnic music). The term was popularized in the 1980s as a marketing category for non-Western traditional music.[86][87]

There are many notable women world music performers, including: Ann Savoy, Asha Bhosle, Asmahan, Bi Kidude, Brenda Fassie, Carmen Miranda, Celia Cruz, Cesaria Evora, Chabuca Granda, Chava Alberstein, Chavela Vargas, Cheikha Rimitti, Cleoma Breaux Falcon, Dolly Collins, Elis Regina, Elizabeth Cotten, Esma Redzepova, Fairuz, Frehel, Gal Costa, Genoa Keawe, Googoosh, Graciela, Hazel Dickens, Jean Ritchie, Lata Mangeshkar, Lola Beltrán, Lucha Reyes, Lucilla Galeazzi (The Mammas), Lydia Mendoza, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Mahotella Queens, Maria Farantouri, Maria Tanase, Mariam Doumbia, Mercedes Sosa, Miriam Makeba, Nada Mamula, Ofra Haza, Oumou Sangare, Rita Marley, Rosa Passos, Roza Eskenazi, Safiye Ayla, Salamat Sadikova, Selda Bagcan, Shirley Collins, Stella Chiweshe, Susana Baca, Valya Balkanska, Violeta Parra, Warda and Zap Mama.

Classical music[edit]

Instrumentalists in classical music may focus on one specific type of playing, such as solo recitals, solo concertos, chamber music, or performing as a member of an orchestra, or they may do different types. Some musicians who play orchestral instruments may do all of these types of performances. Instrumentalists in classical music may do both live performances for an audience and recordings. In some cases, classical performers may do mostly live performances. There has traditionally been a gendered aspect to playing instruments in classical music.

Many album covers for female classical musicians have photographs that emphasize the physical attractiveness of the performer, "often using risqué images".[88] According to Jessica Duchen, a music writer for London's The Independent, Classical women musicians are "...too often judged for their appearances, rather than their talent" and they face pressure "...to look sexy onstage and in photos."[3] Duchen states that while "[t]here are women musicians who refuse to play on their looks,...the ones who do tend to be more materially successful."[3]


The Montreal Women's Symphony Orchestra in 1942.

Historically, orchestras tended to be almost exclusively male, with the exception of the harp player, as the harp was considered a "women's instrument". A music newspaper editorial in 1917 in England encouraged orchestras to allow women to play the "lighter instruments", with the understanding that these women performers would relinquish their positions to men once WW I was over.[6] In the 1990s, to reduce the likelihood of gender bias, some orchestras began conducting auditions of potential new members behind a screen, so the audition panel could not see if it was a male or female performer. Historically, there has been a tendency for brass sections to be male, and some women brass players have alleged that there is gender bias against female brass players. A study in the 1980s found that women made up 36% of US orchestras; 30% in the United Kingdom, and 16% in East and West Germany.[89] Women tended to be hired by lower paid orchestras and they were less present in major orchestras.[89]

In the past, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra argued that "ethnic and gender uniformity" gave their orchestra a better sound.[89] Several male VPO musicians stated in a 1996 interview that classical music has "gender-defined qualities which can be most clearly expressed by male uniformity" in the orchestra.[89] One male VPO member stated that men "...carry secrets that are involved with music and tones, just like in Australian aboriginal or Indian cultures where men play certain instruments, and not the women."[89] One male VPO performer stated that "...pregnancy brings problems. It brings disorder. Another important argument against women is that they can bring the solidarity of the men in question. You find that in all men's groups."

The Vienna Philharmonic did not accept women to permanent membership until 1997, far later than comparable orchestras (of the other orchestras ranked among the world's top five by Gramophone in 2008,[90] the last to appoint a woman to a permanent position was the Berlin Philharmonic.[91]) As late as February 1996, first flautist Dieter Flury told Westdeutscher Rundfunk that accepting women would be "gambling with the emotional unity (emotionelle Geschlossenheit) that this organism currently has".[92] In April 1996, the orchestra's press secretary wrote that "compensating for the expected leaves of absence" of maternity leave was a problem.[93]

Classical violinist Sarah Chang before performing a 2005 solo concert.

In 1997, the orchestra was "facing protests during a [US] tour" by the National Organization for Women and International Association of Women in Music. Finally, "after being held up to increasing ridicule even in socially conservative Austria, members of the orchestra gathered [on 28 February 1997] in an extraordinary meeting on the eve of their departure and agreed to admit a woman, Anna Lelkes, as harpist."[94] As of 2013, the orchestra has six female members; one of them, violinist Albena Danailova became one of the orchestra's concertmasters in 2008, the first woman to hold that position.[95] In 2012, women still made up just 6% of the orchestra's membership, compared to 14% in the Berlin Philharmonic, 30% in the London Symphony Orchestra, and 36% in the New York Philharmonic. VPO president Clemens Hellsberg said the VPO now uses completely screened blind auditions. She said it chooses "the best we get," implying that full gender equity would take time as older members retire and new ones audition under gender-neutral conditions.[96] The Czech Philharmonic excludes women and the Berlin Philharmonic "...has a history of gender discrimination."[89]

In 2013, an article in Mother Jones stated that "[m]any prestigious orchestras have significant female membership—women outnumber men in the New York Philharmonic's violin section—and several renowned ensembles, including the National Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, and the Minnesota Symphony, are led by women violinists. Brass, percussion, and string-bass orchestra sections are still predominantly male."[97]


In classical music, soloists may perform unaccompanied solos on their instrument, as occurs with pianists who play works for solo piano or stringed instruments who play Baroque suites for one instrument (e.g., Bach suites for solo cello). In many cases, though, soloists are accompanied, either by a pianist, a small chamber music ensemble, or, in the case of a concerto, by a full symphony orchestra. In the 2014–2015 season, the majority of concerto soloists who performed with major Canadian orchestras were male. In the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, 67% of the concerto soloists were male. In the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, 74% of the concerto soloists were male. In the National Arts Centre Orchestra, 79% of the concerto soloists were male. In the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal, 84% of the concerto soloists were male.[3] When the CBC news story on the gender balance of concerto soloists was released, the conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey, disputed the accuracy of the news story in regards to his orchestra, arguing that the article only took a single season into account.


Popular music[edit]

Beyoncé as photographed by Tony Duran in 2011.

Singers in popular music perform the vocals for bands and other music groups, which may range in size from a duo or a power trio to a large jazz big band. Singers typically do both live performances and studio recordings. Singers who do live performances may sing in small venues such as coffeehouses or nightclubs, or they may perform in larger venues ranging from arts centres to stadiums. Some singers also perform in music videos, which are used to promote the songs. In some styles of music, singers may play a rhythm section instrument, such as rhythm guitar, electric bass or a percussion instrument while they sing. In some styles of pop, singers perform choreographed dance moves during the show. Two well-known examples of pop singers who do elaborate dance routines in their live shows are Madonna and Britney Spears.

Singer-songwriter and music producer Bjork has commented on how "...women's labor and expertise—inside and outside of the music industry—go unnoticed." She has stated that "[I]t's invisible, what women do," and "[I]t's not rewarded as much."[98] Bjork states "...that her male collaborators are typically credited for the sound of her records; because on stage she mainly sings, there is a widespread assumption that she neither produces [as a music producer] nor plays an instrument."[98] In 2015, "while accepting the Woman of the Year honor at this year's Billboard Women in Music event", Lady Gaga commented on the "...difficulties of being a female recording artist." She said it "...is really hard sometimes for women in music. It's like a f[uck]ing boys club that we just can't get in to." She stated that she "...tried for so long...to be taken seriously as a musician for my intelligence more than my body", yet she felt that others in the industry did not believe that women could have a "... musical background...[or] understand what you're doing because you're a female." [99]

Chaka Khan (born 1953) has been called the "Queen of Funk."

Despite funk’s popularity in modern music, few people have examined the work of funk women. As cultural critic Cheryl Keyes explains in her essay "She Was too Black for Rock and too hard for Soul: (Re)discovering the Musical Career of Betty Mabry Davis," most of the scholarship around funk has focused on the cultural work of men. She states that "Betty Davis is an artist whose name has gone unheralded as a pioneer in the annals of funk and rock. Most writing on these musical genres has traditionally placed male artist like Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton (of Parliament-Funkadelic), and bassist Larry Graham as trendsetters in the shaping of a rock music sensibility"[100] (35). Notable funk women include Chaka Khan, Labelle, Brides of Funkenstein, Klymaxx, Mother's Finest, and Betty Davis.

Below are some of the top-earning female singers in the 2010s. Another way of selecting the most notable singers for this section would be by critical acclaim, but this is a more subjective criteria than earnings. Almost all of these singers are also songwriters, and some are also music producers:


Ma Rainey (1886 – 1939)[101] was one of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record.[102]

Classic female blues was an early form of blues music popular in the 1920s. An amalgam of traditional folk blues and urban theater music, the style is also known as vaudeville blues. Classic blues songs performed by female vocalists were accompanied by pianists or small jazz ensembles, and were the first blues to be recorded. The classic female blues singers were pioneers in the record industry, as they were among the first black singers and blues artists who were recorded. They were also instrumental in popularizing the 12-bar blues throughout the US.

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey (1886–1939), known as the "Mother of the Blues", is credited as the first to perform the blues on stage as popular entertainment when she began incorporating blues into her act of show songs and comedy around 1902.[103][104] New York-based cabaret singer Mamie Smith recorded "Crazy Blues" in 1920, which sold over 75,000 copies.[105] Smith became known as "America’s First Lady of the Blues". In 1920, the vaudeville singer Lucille Hegamin became the second black woman to record blues when she recorded "The Jazz Me Blues".[106] Ethel Waters, Alberta Hunter, Mary Stafford, Katie Crippen, Edith Wilson, and Esther Bigeou, among others, made their first recordings before the end of 1921.[107] These blues recordings were typically labeled as "race records" to distinguish them from records sold to white audiences. Nonetheless, the recordings of some of the classic female blues singers were purchased by white buyers as well.[108] Marion Harris became one of the first white female singers to record the blues.

The most popular of the classic blues singers was Tennessee-born Bessie Smith (no relation to Mamie Smith), who first recorded in 1923 and became known as the "Empress of the Blues". She signed with Columbia and became the highest-paid black artist of the 1920s, recording over 160 songs. Other classic blues singers who recorded extensively until the end of the 1920s were Ida Cox, Clara Smith, and Sara Martin. These early blues singers were an influence on later singers such as Mahalia Jackson and Janis Joplin. These blues women's contributions to the genre included "increased improvisation on melodic lines, unusual phrasing which altered the emphasis and impact of the lyrics, and vocal dramatics using shouts, groans, moans, and wails. The blues women thus effected changes in other types of popular singing that had spin-offs in jazz, Broadway musicals, torch songs of the 1930s and 1940s, gospel, rhythm and blues, and eventually rock and roll." [109]


Fitzgerald performing with Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Milt Jackson and Timme Rosenkrantz in September 1947, New York

While woman have been underrepresented in jazz as instrumentalists, composers, songwriters and bandleaders, there have been many notable women singers. Bessie Smith sang both the blues and jazz. Lena Horne first appeared in the Cotton Club as a teenager. Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday were known for their ballads during the swing era. Shirley Horn sang both jazz and blues. Nina Simone sang jazz, folk and Rhythm and blues. Etta Jones sang rhythm and blues and jazz. Anita O'Day is known for her contributions to Bebop. Betty Carter sang during the post-bop era. Mary Lou Williams was a singer and pianist during the swing and hard bop eras. Sarah Vaughan is known for her singing in the Cool jazz era. Other notable singers include Rosemary Clooney, Diane Schuur and Flora Purim. Contemporary jazz singers include Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot and singer-bassist Esperanza Spalding.

Classical music[edit]

Cecilia Bartoli onstage in 2008.

Classical singers typically do both live performances and recordings. Live performances may be in small venues, such as churches, or large venues, such as opera halls or arts centers. Classical singers may specialize in specific types of singing, such as art song, which are songs performed with piano accompaniment, or opera, which is singing accompanied by a symphony orchestra in a staged, costumed theatrical production. Classical singers are typically categorized by their voice type, which indicates both their vocal range and in some cases also the "color" of their voice. Examples of voice types that indicate the range of a singer's voice include contralto, mezzo soprano and soprano (these go from the lowest range to the highest range). Examples of voice types that indicate both the singer's range and the "color" of her voice type are coloratura soprano and lyric soprano. Whereas popular music singers typically use a microphone and a sound reinforcement system for their vocals, in classical music the voice must be projected into the hall naturally, a skill for which they undertake vocal training.

Black women[edit]

Marian Anderson in 1940.

Marian Anderson (1897–1993)[110] was an African-American contralto of whom music critic Alan Blyth said: "Her voice was a rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty."[111] Most of her singing career was spent performing in concert and recital in major music venues and with famous orchestras throughout the United States and Europe between 1925 and 1965. Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. Anderson continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, becoming the first black person, American or otherwise, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955.

Notable singers[edit]

A short list of notable classical singers includes:

Eastern music[edit]

Arabic music[edit]

Arabic music, which has Persian origins,[112] is an amalgam of the music of the Arab people in the Arabian Peninsula and the music of all the varied peoples that make up the Arab world. In Egypt during the medieval era, male professional musicians during this period were called Alateeyeh (plural), or Alatee (singular), which means "a player upon an instrument". However, this name applies to both vocalists as well as instrumentalists. Male professional musicians were considered disreputable and lowly, and they earned their living playing at parties. Female professional musicians in Egypt were called Awalim (pl) or Al’meh, which means a "learned female". These singers were often hired on the occasion of a celebration in the harem of a wealthy person. They were not with the harem, but in an elevated room that was concealed by a screen so as not to be seen by either the harem or the master of the house. The female Awalim were more highly paid than male performers and more highly regarded. In the 9th century, using male instrumentalists was harshly criticized in a treatise, because male musicians were associated with perceived vices such as playing chess and writing love poetry. Following the invasion of Egypt, Napoleon commissioned reports on the state of Ottoman culture. The report reveals that there were guilds of male instrumentalists who played to male audiences, and "learned female" singer/musicians who sang and played for women audiences.

Chinese music[edit]

In Chinese music, music was a major activity for women during Ancient times, especially for learned women. Women performers were associated with the guqin since ancient times. The guqin is a plucked seven-string Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. It has traditionally been favored by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement. A notable woman guqin player was Cai Wenji, associated with the piece Hujia Shiba-pai.[113]

Indian classical music[edit]

The Indian Carnatic classical singer M.S. Subbulakshmi (1916–2004).

Indian classical music is the art music of the Indian subcontinent. The origins of Indian classical music can be found in the in Hindu hymns. This chanting style evolved into jatis and eventually into ragas. Indian classical music has also been significantly influenced by, or syncretised with, Indian folk music. The major composers from the historical Indian classical music tradition were men. Modern women vocalists include D. K. Pattammal, M. S. Subbalakshmi, Gangubai Hangal, Hirabai Barodekar, Kesarbai Kerkar, Kishori Amonkar, Malini Rajurkar, Mogubai Kurdikar, Prabha Atre, Roshan Ara Begum and Shruti Sadolikar Katkar. One women instrumentalist is Annapurna Devi.

Iranian music[edit]

Fātemeh Vā'ezi (Persian: فاطمه واعظی‎‎) (born 1950), commonly known by her stage name Parīsā (Persian: پریسا‎‎), is a Persian classical vocalist and musician.

Since the Iranian revolution, Iranian female solo vocalists have been permitted to perform for female audiences. Female vocalists can perform for male audiences only as a part of a chorus. Traditionally, it has been difficult for female singers to appear publicly. Women were only allowed to perform for religious rituals, called Tazieh, and men were generally forbidden to listen to women. Before the Revolution, Iranian women could only sing in private, while working, for other women, or during women's celebrations. Qamar ol-Molouk Vaziri (1905-1959) is one of the first female masters of Persian music. Notable female musicians include Delkash (1923-2004); Simin Ghanem (born 1944); Maryam Akhondy (born 1957), founder of Barbad Ensemble; Persian classical guitarist Lily Afshar; singer Shakila, winner of Persian Academy Award; the conductor Soodabeh Salem; Afsaneh Rasaei; Pirayeh Pourafar, founder of Nava Ensemble and Lian Ensemble; and Mahsa Vahdat.

The classical singer Fatemeh Vaezi (commonly known by her stage name "Parisa") has given concerts accompanied by a female orchestra. After 1986 Maryam Akhondy started working with other Iranian musicians in exile. In 2000 Maryam Akhondy created the all-female a cappella group Banu which sung old folk songs that were part of women's activities and celebrations. Singer Sima Bina has taught many female students. Ghashang Kamkar teaches both male and female students. Both Ghashang and Vaezi have criticized the patriarchal power structure in Iran for its treatment of female musicians.[114] Iranian folk-music performers include Sima Bina; Darya Dadvar; Monika Jalili; Ziba Shirazi; Zohreh Jooya; Shushā Guppy. Iranian pop performers include Googoosh; Hayedeh; Mahasti; Leila Forouhar; Pooran; and Laleh Pourkarim. World music performers include Azam Ali and Cymin Samawatie.

Japanese music[edit]

In Japanese music, the idol girl group AKB48 is the best-selling act in Japan by number of singles sold,[115] and Japanese American singer and songwriter Utada Hikaru has the best-selling album in the country, First Love.

Music scholars and educators[edit]

Musicologists and music historians[edit]

Rosetta Reitz (1924–2008) was an American jazz historian and feminist who established a record label producing 18 albums of the music of the early women of jazz and the blues.[116]

The vast majority of major musicologists and music historians have been men. Nevertheless, some women musicologists have reached the top ranks of the profession. Carolyn Abbate (born 1956) is an American musicologist who did her PhD at Princeton University. She has been described by the Harvard Gazette as "one of the world's most accomplished and admired music historians".[117] Susan McClary (born 1946) is a musicologist associated with the "New Musicology" who incorporates feminist music criticism in her work. McClary holds a PhD from Harvard University. One of her best known works is Feminine Endings (1991), which covers musical constructions of gender and sexuality, gendered aspects of traditional music theory, gendered sexuality in musical narrative, music as a gendered discourse and issues affecting women musicians. In the book, McClary suggests that the sonata form (used in symphonies and string quartets) may be a sexist or misogynistic procedure that constructs of gender and sexual identity. McClary's Conventional Wisdom (2000) argues that the traditional musicological assumption of the existence of "purely musical" elements, divorced from culture and meaning, the social and the body, is a conceit used to veil the social and political imperatives of the worldview that produces the classical canon most prized by supposedly objective musicologists.

Other notable women scholars include:


Frances Densmore (1867 – 1957) was an American anthropologist and ethnographer known for her studies of Native American music and culture.

Ethnomusicologists study of the many musics around the world that emphasize their cultural, social, material, cognitive, biological, and other dimensions or contexts instead of or in addition to its isolated sound component or any particular repertoire. Ethnomusicology – a term coined by Jaap Kunst from the Greek words ἔθνος (ethnos, "nation") and μουσική (mousike, "music") – is often described as the anthropology or ethnography of music. Initially, ethnomusicology was almost exclusively oriented toward non-Western music, but now includes the study of Western music from anthropological, sociological and intercultural perspectives.

Notable ethnomusicologists include:

Music educators[edit]

A music teacher leading a music ensemble in an elementary school in 1943.

While music critics argued in the 1880s that "...women lacked the innate creativity to compose good music" due to "biological predisposition",[2] later, it was accepted that women would have a role in music education, and they became involved in this field "...to such a degree that women dominated music education during the later half of the 19th century and well into the 20th century."[2] "Traditional accounts of the history of music education [in the US] have often neglected the contributions of women, because these texts have emphasized bands and the top leaders in hierarchical music organizations." [118] When looking beyond these bandleaders and top leaders, women had many music education roles in the "...home, community, churches, public schools, and teacher-training institutions" and "...as writers, patrons, and through their volunteer work in organizations." [118]

Despite the limitations imposed on women's roles in music education in the 19th century, women were accepted as kindergarten teachers, because this was deemed to be a "private sphere". Women also taught music privately, in girl's schools, Sunday schools, and they trained musicians in school music programs. By the turn of the 20th century, women began to be employed as music supervisors in elementary schools, teachers in normal schools and professors of music in universities. Women also became more active in professional organizations in music education, and women presented papers at conferences.

A woman, Frances Clarke (1860-1958) founded the Music Supervisors National Conference in 1907. While a small number of women served as President of the Music Supervisors National Conference (and the following renamed versions of the organization over the next century) in the early 20th century, there were only two female Presidents between 1952 and 1992, which "[p]ossibly reflects discrimination." After 1990, however, leadership roles for women in the organization opened up. From 1990 to 2010, there were five female Presidents of this organization.[119] Women music educators "outnumber men two-to-one" in teaching general music, choir, private lessons, and keyboard instruction .[119] More men tend to be hired as for band education, administration and jazz jobs, and more men work in colleges and universities.[119] According to Dr. Sandra Wieland Howe, there is still a "glass ceiling" for women in music education careers, as there is "stigma" associated with women in leadership positions and "men outnumber women as administrators."[119]

Notable individuals[edit]


Natalia Luis-Bassa conducting the Haffner Orchestra in 2007.

The majority of professional orchestra conductors are male; The Guardian called conducting "one of the last glass ceilings in the music industry".[97] In 2014, "...Bachtrack reported that, in a list of the world's 150 top conductors that year, only five were women."[124] There are a small number of female conductors who have become top-ranked international conductors. In January 2005, Australian conductor Simone Young became the first woman to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic. In 2008 Marin Alsop, a protégé of Leonard Bernstein, became the first woman to become the music director and principal conductor of a major US orchestra when she won the top job at the Baltimore Symphony.[125] There were "...protests from a large swathe of the Baltimore Symphony when she was first named Music Director", but since that time, "plaudits [have] roll[ed] in."[125] In 2014, Alsop was the first woman conductor to lead the Last Night of the Proms concert–one of the most important classical music events in Britain–in its 118-year history.[125]

Jeri Lynne Johnson was the first African-American woman to win an international conducting prize when she was awarded the Taki Concordia conducting fellowship in 2005. She is the founder and music director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, the first multi-ethnic professional orchestra in Philadelphia. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago, she is a conductor, composer and pianist. From 2001-2004, she was the assistant conductor of The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.[126] She has led orchestras around the world including the Colorado Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony (UK), and the Weimar Staatskapelle (Germany). Alongside prominent woman conductors Marin Alsop and JoAnn Falletta, Ms. Johnson was heralded on the NBC Today Show as one of the nation’s leading female conductors.

'Orchestras react better when they have a man in front of them [because] a cute girl on the podium means that musicians think about other things'.

Vasily Petrenko, principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, cited by Hannah Levintova, "Here's Why You Seldom See Women Leading a Symphony" in Mother Jones, 23 September 2013

According to the UK's Radio 3 editor, Edwina Wolstencroft, "The music world has been happy to have female performers ...for a long time...[;]But owning authority and power in public is another matter. That's where female conductors have had a hard time. Our society is more resistant to women being powerful in public than to women being entertaining."[4] Yuri Temirkanov, the music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, gave his views on the appropriateness of women conductors in a September 2013 interview, stating that "The essence of the conductor's profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness."[3] Finnish conductor Jorma Panula, who was named as one of the "60 most powerful people in music" in a November 2000 issue of BBC Music Magazine, provided his views on female conductors in a 2014 television interview. He stated that "women [conductors]… Of course they are trying! Some of them are making faces, sweating and fussing, but it is not getting any better – only worse!... It's not a problem – if they choose the right pieces. If they take more feminine music. Bruckner or Stravinsky will not do, but Debussy is OK. This is a purely biological question."[127]

'"The essence of the conductor's profession is strength. The essence of a woman is weakness'

Yuri Temirkanov, the music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in September 2013, cited by CBC in the article "Classical music's shocking gender gap [3]

In 2013, "Vasily Petrenko, the principal conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, provoked outrage when he told a Norwegian newspaper that 'orchestras react better when they have a man in front of them' because 'a cute girl on the podium means that musicians think about other things.'"[97] Petrenko stated that "[w]hen conducted by a man, [orchestral] musicians encounter fewer erotic distractions."[128] He also stated that "when women have families, it becomes difficult to be as dedicated as is demanded in the business".[128] Bruno Mantovani, the director of the Paris Conservatoire, gave an interview about women conductors in which he raised the "problem of maternity" and ability of women to withstand the physical challenges and stresses of the profession, which involve "conducting, taking a plane, taking another plane, conducting again."[3] The low percentage of women conductors is not because women do not study in music school; indeed, in 2009 and 2012 almost half of the recipients of conducting doctorates were women.[97]

Notable female conductors include:

Music critics[edit]

Popular music[edit]

American pop music critic Ann Powers (pictured in 2007)

According to Anwen Crawford, the "problem for women [popular music critics] is that our role in popular music was codified long ago", which means that "[b]ooks by living female rock critics (or jazz, hip-hop, and dance-music critics, for that matter) are scant." Crawford notes that the "...most famous rock-music critics—Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, Nick Kent—are all male."[98]

Sociologist Simon Frith noted that pop and rock music "are closely associated with gender; that is, with conventions of male and female behaviour."[129] According to Holly Kruse, both popular music articles and academic articles about pop music are usually written from "masculine subject positions."[130] As well, there are relatively few women writing in music journalism: "By 1999, the number of female editors or senior writers at Rolling Stone hovered around...15%, [while] at Spin and Raygun, [it was] roughly 20%."[131] Criticism associated with gender was discussed in a 2014 Jezebel article about the struggles of women in music journalism, written by music critic Tracy Moore, previously an editor at the Nashville Scene.[132]

The American music critic Ann Powers, as a female critic and journalist for a popular, male-dominated industry, has written critiques the perceptions of sex, racial and social minorities in the music industry. She has also written about feminism.[133][134] In 2006 she accepted a position as chief pop-music critic at the Los Angeles Times, where she succeeded Robert Hilburn.[135] In 2005, Powers co-wrote the book Piece by Piece with musician Tori Amos, which discusses the role of women in the modern music industry, and features information about composing, touring, performance, and the realities of the music business.

Anwen Crawford, a writer for The Monthly contributed to Jessica Hopper’s book of essays and profiles entitled The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic.[136] Crawford's article "...explores women's long struggle for visibility and recognition in the field of rock criticism, even though we’ve been helping to pioneer it from the start".[136] Crawford states that “[t]he record store, the guitar shop, and now social media: when it comes to popular music, these places become stages for the display of male prowess"; "[f]emale expertise, when it appears, is repeatedly dismissed as fraudulent. Every woman who has ever ventured an opinion on popular music could give you some variation [of this experience] ...and becoming a recognized “expert” (a musician, a critic) will not save [women] from accusations of fakery.” [136]

Notable popular music critics include:

Classical music[edit]

Marion Lignana Rosenberg (1961–2013) was a music critic, writer, translator, broadcaster and journalist. She wrote for many periodicals, including Salon.com, The New York Times and Playbill.

"The National Arts Journalism Program (NAJP) at Columbia... completed a large study of arts journalism in America [in 2005]. They found that "the average classical music critic is a white, 52-year-old male with a graduate degree, but twenty-six percent of all critics writing are female." However, William Osborne points out that this 26% figure includes all newspapers, including low-circulation regional papers. Osborne states that the "...large US papers, which are the ones that influence public opinion, have virtually no women classical music critics." The only female critics from major US papers are Anne Midgette (New York Times) and Wynne Delacoma (Chicago Sun-Times). Midgette was the "...first woman to cover classical music in the entire history of the paper."[137] Susannah Clapp, a critic from The Guardian–a newspaper that has a female classical music critic–stated in May 2014 that she had only then realized "...what a rarity" a female classical music critic is in journalism.[138]

Notable women classical music critics include:

Other musical professions[edit]

Record producing and sound engineering[edit]

A 2013 Sound on Sound article stated that there are "...few women in record production and sound engineering."[5] Ncube states that "[n]inety-five percent of music producers are male, and although there are female producers achieving great things in music, they are less well-known than their male counterparts."[5] "Only three women have ever been nominated for best producer at the Brits or the Grammys" and none won either award.[139] "Women who want to enter the [producing] field face a boys' club, or a guild mentality".[139] The UK "Music Producers' Guild says less than 4% of its members are women" and at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, "...only 6% of the students enrolled on its sound technology course are female."[139]

In Ruth Saxelby's article "Why aren't more women becoming music producers?", she states that "[beats aren't gendered [, so why do w]omen represent less than 5% of music producers and engineers"? Saxelby interviewed 13 women who work as music producers to seek the potential causes of this situation.[140] Fatima Al Qadiri from New York states that "women are expected to be the sexualized commercial object for sale in music, and production and engineering [are fields where women are] rarely [able to be] objectified for financial gain [by the music industry]"; as such, the industry does not use women producers or engineers.[141] Qadiri said barriers to women in production and sound engineering include "misogyny, sexism, unequal pay,...[and] pressure to make your body (rather than your music) the central focus of your career." [142] Caroline Polachek from New York states that "...an artist is not as likely to bring in a woman to produce his track as a man, not because of a bias against women per se, but because on some level it's playing safe: a killer producer, history tells us, looks like a man."[143]

Wondagurl from Toronto states that "there aren't many female producer and engineers, because they find this side of the business to be mostly male-dominated and many woman do not like to have to compete with men." [144] Holly Herndon from San Francisco states that "[m]usic, despite common misconceptions, is quite conservative. The archetypes don't seem to ever really change...Every year we get a diva, a dancer,...a girl next door, a fashion queen, a dainty songstress; all younger updates on a previous [year's] model. No room for new archetypes [such as women producers]." Herndon points out that Missy Elliott "...exists outside of those narrow roles..."[145] Asma Maroof from Los Angeles says women are "....intimidated by such a male-driven profession."[146]

Tokimonsta, also from Los Angeles, states that "...our culture has systematically engrained this idea that technology is more of a man's thing." [147] Ikonika from London, UK, states that the music industry is "sexist and racist".[148] Anna Lunoe from Sydney, Australia, states that "...more girls [should be] exposed to introductory production workshops" and "production mentoring programs that are... aimed at promising young female engineers".[149] Leila from London, UK, states that "[t]here have been a fair few [female producers and engineers]", from Delia Derbyshire to Tina Weymouth to Susan Day to Missy [Elliot] to Zavoloka. Leila suggests that to increase the number of women in music production and sound engineering, girls should be given training in computers and software coding.

Cordell Jackson, pictured here in 1990, was an American guitarist thought to be the first woman to produce, engineer, arrange and promote music on her own rock and roll music label.

One of the first women to produce, engineer, arrange and promote music on her own rock and roll music label was Cordell Jackson (1923-2004). She founded the Moon Records label in Memphis in 1956 after a few years of recording demos at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service and Sun Records Studio. Unable to break into the Sun Records label's stable of male artists, she received the advice and assistance of RCA Records' Chet Atkins in forming this new label to release her music. She began releasing and promoting on the label singles she recorded in her home studio, serving as engineer, producer and arranger. The artists recorded included her and a small family of early rock and roll, rockabilly, and country music performers she recruited from several Southern states.

Trina Shoemaker is a mixer, record producer and sound engineer responsible for producing/engineering and/or mixing records for bands such as Queens of the Stone Age,[150] Sheryl Crow,[150] Emmylou Harris,[150] Something for Kate,[151] Nanci Griffith[151] and many more. In 1998 Shoemaker became the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album for her work on The Globe Sessions.[152] In addition to Crow, Shoemaker went on to work with artists such as Blues Traveller, Emmylou Harris, the Indigo Girls and the Dixie Chicks.[153] Shoemaker states that men in the industry would "...grab my ass".[154]

Gail Davies was the '...first female producer in country music, delivering a string of Top 10 hits in the '70s and '80s including "Someone Is Looking for Someone Like You," "Blue Heartache" and "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)." [154] When she moved to Nashville in 1976, men "...didn't want to work for a woman" and she was told women in the city were "...still barefoot, pregnant and [singing] in the vocal booth." [154] Wendy Waldman, who became a producer after Davies, saw that Davies had a difficult time. When Jonell Polansky arrived in Nashville in 1994, with a degree in electrical engineering and recording experience in the Bay Area, she was told "...[y]ou're a woman, and we already had one"–a reference to Waldman.[154] KK Proffitt, who is a studio "owner and chief engineer" states that men in Nashville do not want to have women in the recording booth. At a meeting of the Audio Engineering Society, Proffitt was told to "shut up" by a male producer when she raised the issue of updating studio recording technologies.[154] Proffitt said she finds "...finds sexism rampant in the industry".[154]

Other notable women include:

Movements, organizations, events and genres[edit]

Women's music[edit]

Bernice Johnson Reagon (born 1942) is a singer, composer, scholar, and social activist, who founded the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock in 1973. She was an important figure in the womyn's music scene.

Women's music (also womyn's music or wimmin's music) is music by women, for women, and about women.[155] The genre emerged as a musical expression of the second-wave feminist movement[156] as well as the labor, civil rights, and peace movements.[157] The movement (in the US) was started by lesbians such as Cris Williamson, Meg Christian and Margie Adam, African-American musicians (including Linda Tillery, Mary Watkins, Gwen Avery) and activists such as Bernice Johnson Reagon and her group Sweet Honey in the Rock, and peace activist Holly Near.[157] Women's music also refers to the wider industry of women's music that goes beyond the performing artists to include studio musicians, producers, sound engineers, technicians, cover artists, distributors, promoters, and festival organizers who are also women.[155]


International Alliance for Women in Music[edit]

The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) is an international organization of women and men dedicated to fostering and encouraging the activities of women in music, particularly in the areas of musical activity, such as composing, performing, and research, in which gender discrimination is an historic and ongoing concern. The IAWM engages in efforts to increase the programming of music by female composers, to combat discrimination against female musicians, including as symphony orchestra members, and to include accounts of the contributions of women musicians in university music curricula. To end gender discrimination, the IAWM led successful boycotts of the American concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1990s; the "VPO watch" continues.[158] Advocacy by the organization has contributed to the inclusion of women composers in college music history textbooks.[159]

Women in Music (WIM-NY)[edit]

Women in Music (WIM-NY) is an American organization based in New York City which was founded in 1985. It aims to "...support, cultivate and recognize the talents of women" in music.[160] WIM-NY holds activities and events, including "seminars, panels, and networking events." [160] As well, it gives out annual Touchstone Awards to women in music. WIM-NY members include "record label executives, artist managers, songwriters, musicians, attorneys, recording engineers, agents, publicists, studio owners, music publishers, online and traditional marketers" from "all genres of music and all areas of the [music] industry."[160] As of 2015, the President is lawyer Neeta Ragoowansi and the Vice-President is lawyer Jennifer Newman Sharpe. As of 2015, Board of Directors members include women from Nielsen Music, Warner Music Group, Ableton, Downtown Music Publishing and the Berklee College of Music.

Women in Music Canada[edit]

Women in Music Canada Professional Association (WIMC) is an organization based in Toronto, Ontario, that was established in 2012. It is a federally registered non-profit organization that aims to "foste[r] equality in the music industry through the support and advancement of women." [161] WIMC is financially supported by the federal government, the FACTOR program, the Ontario government and Slaight Music.

Women in Music (WIM-UK)[edit]

Women in Music (WIM-UK) is a United Kingdom "...membership organization that celebrates women's music making across all genres of music." [162] WIM-UK works to raise "...awareness of gender issues in music and support women musicians in their professional development." [162] WIM-UK's website provides information on competitions and job opportunities.[162] WIM-UK does a survey of the numbers of women composers, conductors and soloists who appear in the BBC PROMS, the "largest classical music festival in the world." For the 2015 Proms, women composers made up 10% of the program, women conductors made up 4% of the 50 conductors and female instrumental soloists made up 30%.[163]

Riot Grrrl[edit]

Carrie Brownstein from the punk-indie band Sleater-Kinney, performing at Vegoose in 2005.

Riot grrrl is an underground feminist hardcore punk movement that originally started in the early 1990s, in Washington, D.C.,[164] and the greater Pacific Northwest, noticeably in Olympia, Washington.[165] It is often associated with third-wave feminism, which is sometimes seen as its starting point. It has also been described as a musical genre that came out of indie rock, with the punk scene serving as an inspiration for a musical movement in which women could express themselves in the same way men had been doing for the past several years.[166]

Riot grrrl bands often address issues such as rape, domestic abuse, sexuality, racism, patriarchy, and female empowerment. Bands associated with the movement include Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, Heavens to Betsy, Excuse 17, Huggy Bear, Cake Like, Skinned Teen, Emily's Sassy Lime, Sleater-Kinney, and also queercore groups like Team Dresch.[167][168] In addition to a music scene and genre, riot grrrl is a subculture involving a DIY ethic, zines, art, political action, and activism.[169] Riot grrrls are known to hold meetings, start chapters, and support and organize women in music.[170]


Women's music festivals, which may also be called womyn's music festivals, have been held since the 1970s. Some women's music festivals are organized for lesbians. The first women's music festival was held in 1973 at Sacramento State University. In May, 1974 the first National Woman's Music Festival was held in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, founded by University of Illinois student Kristin Lems.[171] It celebrated its fortieth year in Middleton, Wisconsin, from July 2–5, 2015.[172] As of 2015, it is a four-day event that includes concerts, workshops, comedy, theatre, films and writing events that "...promote and affirm the creative talents and technical skills of women" from diverse, multicultural communities, including women with disabilities. While most attendees are women, men can attend.[173] The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival was created in 1976, and became the largest festival in the United States.[174]

An example of a festival that focuses on music is the Women in Music Festival held by the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music. The festival began in 2005 as a celebration of the contributions of women to composition, performance, teaching, scholarship, and music administration.[175] From its modest beginnings of Eastman students and faculty members performing music by women composers, the Festival has grown to include additional concerts and events throughout Rochester, NY and to host composers-in-residence, who have included Tania León (2007), Nancy Van de Vate (2008), Judith Lang Zaimont (2009), Emma Lou Diemer (2010), and Hilary Tann (2011). The festival has presented more than 291 different works by 158 composers.

Many other festivals have been created throughout the United States and Canada since the mid-1970s and vary in size from a few hundred to thousands of attendees. The Los Angeles Women's Music Festival began in 2007 with over 2500 attendees. Events outside the US include the Sappho Lesbian Witch Camp, near Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada and the Sistajive Women's Music Festival in Australia. Some festivals are focused around the lesbian community, such as the Ohio Lesbian Festival, near Columbus Ohio, which was created in 1988; Christian Lesbians Out (CLOUT), which holds a gathering in early August in Washington, DC; The Old Lesbian Gathering, a festival in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and RadLesFes, an event held in the middle of November near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Feminist-oriented festivals include the Southern Womyn's Festival in Dade City, Florida; the Gulf Coast Womyn's Festival in Ovett, Missouri; Wiminfest in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Womongathering, the Festival of Womyn's Spirituality; the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, near Hart, Michigan; and the Midwest Womyn's Festival in DeKalb, Illinois.

While women's music festivals are centered on music, they support many other facets of lesbian and feminist culture. Some festivals are designed to provide a safe space for women's music and culture. Many festivals are held on college campuses or in remote rural locations, where attendees stay in campsites. Many festivals offer workshops on arts, crafts, fitness, and athletic events that women may not be able find in mainstream culture. In her book Eden Built by Eves, Bonnie Morris describes how women's music festivals serve women throughout the stages of their lives. Since the festivals are organized by women, for women, daycare and childcare facilities are typically provided. Festivals often provide a safe space for coming of age rituals for young women, adult romance and commitment ceremonies, the expression of alternative perspectives on motherhood, and the expression of grief and loss.[176]

Lilith Fair[edit]

Lilith Fair was a concert tour and travelling music festival that consisted solely of female solo artists and female-led bands. It was founded by Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan, Nettwerk Music Group's Dan Fraser and Terry McBride, and New York talent agent Marty Diamond. It took place during the summers of 1997 to 1999, and was revived in the summer of 2010.[177] McLachlan organized the festival after she became frustrated with concert promoters and radio stations that refused to feature two female musicians in a row.[178] Bucking conventional industry wisdom, she booked a successful tour for herself and Paula Cole. At least one of their appearances together – in McLachlan's home town, on 14 September 1996 – went by the name "Lilith Fair" and included performances by McLachlan, Cole, Lisa Loeb and Michelle McAdorey, formerly of Crash Vegas.

The next year, McLachlan founded the Lilith Fair tour, taking Lilith from the medieval Jewish legend that Lilith was Adam's first wife. In 1997, Lilith Fair garnered a $16 million gross, making it the top-grossing of any touring festival.[178] Among all concert tours for that year, it was the 16th highest grossing.[178] The festival received several pejorative nicknames, including "Breast-fest", "Girlapalooza", and "Clam Jam".[179][180]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Bowers, Jane and Tick, Judith (Eds). Women Making Music: The Western Art Tradition, 1150-1950 (Reprint Edition). Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, 1986.
  • Citron, Marcia J. Gender and the Musical Canon. CUP Archive, 1993.
  • Dunbar, Julie C. Women, Music, Culture: An Introduction. Routledge, 2010.
  • Goldin, C. and C. Rouse, 2000. "Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of ‘Blind’ Auditions on Female Musicians," American Economic Review, 90(4): 715–741.
  • Pendle, Karin Anna. Women and Music: A History. Indiana University Press, 2001.
  • Solie, Ruth A., Ed., Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. University of California Press, 1993.


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  4. ^ a b Jessica Duchen. "Why the male domination of classical music might be coming to an end | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  5. ^ a b c Rosina Ncube. "Sounding Off: Rosina Ncube [:] Why So Few Women in Audio?" in Sound on Sound. September 2013
  6. ^ a b John Mullen. The Show Must Go On! Popular Song in Britain During the First World War. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015
  7. ^ a b c d e Ted Gioia. "Five women songwriters who helped shape the sound of jazz" in Oxford University Press Blog. 12 March 2013. Available at: http://blog.oup.com/2013/03/jazz-women-songwriters-gioia/ Accessed on 15 October 2015
  8. ^ a b c d e Erika White (2015-01-28). "Music History Primer: 3 Pioneering Female Songwriters of the ’60s | REBEAT Magazine". Rebeatmag.com. Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  9. ^ Gioia, Michael (2 August 2015). ""It's Revving Up" – The Next Generation of Female Songwriters Share Their Hopes for the Future". http://www.playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved 15 October 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  10. ^ a b Purcell, Carey (7 June 2015). "Fun Home Duo Make History as First All-Female Writing Team to Win the Tony". http://www.playbill.com. Playbill. Retrieved 7 November 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
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  15. ^ a b "Black Women Songwriters". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
  16. ^ a b Citron, Marcia J. Gender and the Musical Canon. CUP Archive, 1993.
  17. ^ a b c ; 11:04 AM • by Abbey Philips (2011-09-01). "The history of women and gender roles in music". Rvanews.com. Retrieved 2016-01-20. 
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  19. ^ Some writers have speculated a distant origin for opera in this piece, though without any evidence. See: [1]; alt Opera, see Florentine Camerata in the province of Milan, Italy. [2] and [3]
  20. ^ Maddocks, Fiona. Hildegard of Bingen: The Woman of Her Age (New York: Doubleday, 2001), p. 194.
  21. ^ Alternative names: Madalena Casulana di Mezarii, Madalena Casula.
  22. ^ Thomas W. Bridges. "Casulana, Maddalena." In Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/05155 (accessed 10 January 2010).
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  24. ^ Listen: Ego Flos Campi (H.Heldstab), http://www.earlywomenmasters.net/midi/mid/assand2.mid
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  26. ^ Heller 2006.
  27. ^ Glixon 1999, p. 138.
  28. ^ Kendrick 2002.
  29. ^ Rosand 1986, p. 170.
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  31. ^ Mary Cyr. "Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre: Myth or Marvel? Seeking the Composer's Individuality." The Musical Times. Vol. 149, No. 1905 (Winter, 2008), pp. 79–87.
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  35. ^ Bertil H. van Boer, 'Stenborg, Carl' in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell (eds), 2001
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  38. ^ Cook, Elizabeth Beaumesnil, Henriette Adélaïde Villard de, in Sadie, Stanley (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Grove (Oxford University Press), New York, 1997, I, p. 366. ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2
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  40. ^ a b Jane L. Berdes, "Anna Bon," Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers (New York: Norton, 1995).
  41. ^ More extensive biography is found in Barbara Garvey Jackson's introduction to her edition of the op. 2 sonatas (Fayetteville, AR: ClarNan Editions, 1989).
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  44. ^ a b Raessler, Daniel M. (2004). "Miles (nee Guest), Jane Mary (c. 1762–1846)". In Matthew, H.C.G.; Harrison, Brian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 38. Oxford University Press. p. 133. ISBN 0-19-861388-1. 
  45. ^ Fuller, Sophie (1994). Pandora Guide to Women Composers. London: Pandora. pp. 143–144. ISBN 0-04-440897-8. 
  46. ^ Godt, 541
  47. ^ Wessely, New Grove, "Marianne von Martinez", online edition cited below
  48. ^ Godt 1995, 538
  49. ^ Pohl (1856:60)
  50. ^ Letter of 16 July 1820, in Hensel (1884), I 82
  51. ^ Letter to Lea Mendelssohn-Bartholdy,24 June 1837. Mendelssohn (1864),p. 113
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