• Composer of the Week:   Women Composers in History 
     
     

    Many students have asked a simple question concerning famous composers:  Why are there very few women?  Today, we’ll try to answer that question.  We’ll also look at some important female composers. 

    There have been hundreds of excellent female composers throughout history.  However, it was not until the 20th century that women’s rights became a major issue.  In the United States, women could not even vote until 1920.  In fact, married women who also worked outside the home were fairly uncommon until at least the 1970’s.   Music, like many other professions, was a male-dominated profession for hundreds of years (this is especially true for composing music).  In many cultures, women were expected to raise their families and maintain the household. Women who did work either did household servant duties, or were nurses, teachers of young children, etc. 

     In some cases, society was more accepting of female music teachers and performers than it was accepting of female composers.  Often, the composers that did exist wrote under false names which made them appear to be men.  All that said, there have been many women who composed throughout history.  Here are some examples. 

     

     

     

    ·        Hilde

     

    Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179, Renaissance Period, Germany)  

     

     

     

    ·        Leo

     

    Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704, Baroque Period, Italy) 

     

           
             ab  

     

    Harriet Abrams (1758-1821, Classical Period, England)  

     

     

    ·        Fanny

     

    Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847, Romantic Period, Germany)

     

     

     

    ·        C schumann

     

    Clara Schuman (1819-1896, Romantic Period, Germany)

      

     

     

    ·        Beach

     

    Amy Cheney Beach (1867-1944, Romantic/Modern Period, America)

     

     

     

    ·        Boulanger

     

    Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979, Modern period, French)

     

     

     

    ·        Higdon

     

    Jennifer Higdon (Born 1962, Contemporary, America)

     
     

     

    Above are just a handful of notable female composers dating back to the Renaissance Period.  There have been hundreds more.  Today, the number of women composers and performers is growing, though there are still many more men than women in the profession.  Over time, the number of female composers is likely to keep growing!