A Report from the First National Congress on Women in Music

October 1, 1982

Courses in the history of women in music have become more acceptable and available in colleges and universities throughout the country, but faculty faced with teaching in this field still find that they are charting new areas. There are no precedents, no textbooks, and there are few recordings and scores at hand. Perhaps for these reasons the session titled "Teaching the History of Women in Music at the College Level," held at the First National Congress of Women in Music at New York University on March 27, 1981 was widely attended and enthusiastically received. The 45 people who attended included representatives from many states, Puerto Rico and Europe.

The session featured four scholars who had recently taught courses about women in music at various institutions of higher education: Carol Neuls-Bates, Brooklyn College, CUNY; James R. Briscoe, Butler University; Joan Herrenkohl, Diablo Valley College; and Nancy Vedder-Shults, University of Wisconsin at Madison. Nancy B. Reich, Manhattanville College, chaired the session. A decision was made to focus on sources and materials and judging from the response it was the right one. The bibliographies, discographies, and other lists of resources disappeared in minutes.

What follows here, for the readers of SYMPOSIUM and those who may be called on to teach about the history of women in music, is a brief summary of the comments made by the four panelists and a list of resources selected from the materials prepared by the panelists and the chairperson. Margot Fortunato Kriel, University of Minneapolis, was not able to be present but submitted the syllabus created for her course, "Women in Three Arts: Painting, Music and Literature."

Those on the panel unanimously declared that teaching a course in this new field had been a gratifying and stimulating experience. Students were motivated and enthusiastic. Relationships between music and the social sciences were made clear. Patterns and parallels in all the arts were brought to light. A change in attitude towards the contributions of women to the arts was discerned, not only in students but also in instructors and fellow faculty members. Moreover, as Nancy Vedder-Shults pointed out, a course of this kind provides an opportunity to do some critical and objective thinking about conventional references, texts, readings, and opinions.

Some of the courses were designed for graduate music majors, some for the student not majoring in music, and still others for mixed groups. In developing the courses each instructor found that imagination and flexibility were key requisites. Some teachers concentrated on women composers, others studied women conductors, performers, patrons, writers on music, and folk and jazz artists as well. Almost all found that they were giving unorthodox assignments in addition to the usual lectures, readings, research papers, and listening assignments. Since few recordings were available, many in-class performances were presented by students and faculty. For those works for which no modern performing editions were available, students were called on to prepare scores. Among the invited guest lecturers were local music teachers and administrators, composers, and performers. Concerts and workshops given in the community were utilized as required listening and became the basis for class discussion. Research opportunities in such varied locales as convents and night clubs were mentioned. Several instructors called on the resources of the "Meet the Composer" program. Others interviewed women musicians—in class and out—to get first-hand comments on their experiences; additional projects involved preparation of programs for local radio stations and other groups.

Since many instructors encountered resistance from hard-pressed and skeptical administrators, the suggestions made by James Briscoe for sources of funding for necessary new materials were eagerly accepted. He advised approaching such groups as the National Women's Studies Association, state and local arts councils, and mentioned two or three private foundations known for encouraging women's studies, governmental agencies concerned with equal rights (whether this is still a possibility is doubtful), and local music clubs. His proposal for bartering a recital for a small grant was greeted with great enthusiasm.

Many instructors had already traded notes, unpublished papers, reading lists, and discographies in an informal way. The panel provided an opportunity for a more structured and a wider exchange. In collating the references submitted by the panelists, I found that all had used the same basic body of readings. The article by art historian Linda Nochlin, "Why Are There No Great Women Artists?" was used as a focal point by almost all the participants. It is currently available in two anthologies (see below). Other basic resources were the articles by Jane Bowers and Jeannie Pool published in 1977 (see below). About the same time (1977) the first recordings devoted exclusively to the work of women composers were produced by Gemini Hall; since then many reference works have been rushed into print. Da Capo Press is publishing a series of scores by women composers. Recordings by women composers have been produced and featured by record companies, dealers, and radio stations. Women in American Music: A Bibliography of Music and Literature published in 1979 (see below) has been used by many teachers as a model of scholarly work in this new field. At the Congress session two forthcoming works, both potential college texts, were announced: Carol Neuls-Bates, editor, Women in Music: An Anthology of Source Readings from the Middle Ages to the Present, New York: Harper and Row, 1982, and Jane Bowers and Judith Tick, editors, Women Making Music, Studies in the History of Women in Western Music, Berkeley: University of California Press.

A list of recent reference works and bibliographies, general studies on women in music, studies of individual women, and discographies follows. These have been selected from the materials prepared for the session by the panelists, the chairperson, and Margot Fortunato Kriel. To avoid duplication, individual books and articles cited in Bowers' and in Pool's bibliographies are not listed here. Note that most of the works cited have been published during the last ten years. Individual syllabi and bibliographies prepared by Joan Herrenkohl and James Briscoe are available on request from Nancy B. Reich, Department of Music, Manhattanville College, Purchase, N.Y. 10577.



Block, Adrienne F. and Carol Neuls-Bates, editors. Women in American Music: A Bibliography of Music and Literature. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979.

Bowers, Jane. "Teaching About the History of Women in Western Music," Women's Studies Newsletter (Summer 1977), pp. 11-15. Includes discography.

Hixon, Donald L. and Don Hennessee. Women in Music: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1975.

Neuls-Bates, Carol. "Sources and Resources for Women's Studies in American Music: A Report," Notes XXXV (Winter 1978), 269-283.

Pool, Jeannie. Women in Music History: A Research Guide. Ansonia Station, N.Y.: Published by the author, 1977. Includes discography.

Skowronski, JoAnn. Women in American Music: A Bibliography. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1978.

Smith, Julia, editor. Directory of American Women Composers. Chicago: National Federation of Women's Clubs, 1970.

Stern, Susan. Women Composers: A Handbook. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1978.

Williams, Ora. Black Women in the Arts and Social Sciences: A Bibliographic Survey. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1975.

Women and Folk Music: A Select Bibliography. Washington: Archive of Folk Song, Library of Congress.

Women and Music. Special issue of Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art and Politics 10 (1980). New York: Heresies Collective, Inc. (225 Lafayette Street, New York, N.Y. 10012).

Wood, Elizabeth. "Review Essay: Women in Music," Signs VI (Winter 1980), 283-297.



Ammer, Christine. Unsung: History of Women in American Music. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.

Arnold, Denis. "Orphans and Ladies: the Venetian Conservatories (1680-1790)," Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association (1962-63), pp. 31-48.

Bagnall, Anne D. Musical Practices in Medieval English Nunneries. Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1975.

Bogin, Meg. The Women Troubadours. New York: Two Continents Publishing Co., 1976.

Borroff, Edith. "Women Composers: Reminiscence and History," College Music Symposium XV (1975), 26-33.

Driggs, Frank. Women in Jazz: A Survey. New York: Stash Records, 1977. (P.O. Box 390, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215).

Drinker, Sophie L. Music and Women: The Story of Women in Their Relation to Music. (1948) Reprint, Washington: Zenger Publishing Co., 1976.

Neuls-Bates, Carol, editor. The Status of Women in College Music: Preliminary Studies. College Music Society Report No. 1, 1976.

Nochlin, Linda. "Why Are There No Great Women Artists?" Women in Sexist Society, Gornick and Moran, editors. New York: Basic Books, 1971. Also published in Art and Sexual Politics, Hess and Baker, editors. New York: Collier Books, 1971.

Oliveros, Pauline. "And Don't Call Them 'Lady' Composers," New York Times, September 13, 1970.

Pool, Jeannie. "Women in Music: Up from the Footnotes," Music Educators Journal 65 (January 1979), 28-41. Includes discography. This issue of MEJ includes five articles on women in music.

Renton, Barbara Hampton. The Status of Women in College Music, 1976-77: A Statistical Study. College Music Society Report No. 2, 1980.

Rosen, Judith and Grace Rubin-Rabson. "Why Haven't Women Become Great Composers?" High Fidelity/Musical America 23 (February 1973), 46-52. Includes discography.

Tick, Judith. Towards a History of American Women Composers Before 1870. Ph.D. dissertation, City University of New York, 1979.

Tick, Judith. "Women as Professional Musicians in the United States, 1870-1900," Yearbook for Interamerican Musical Research (1973), pp. 95-133.

Van de Vate, Nancy. "The American Woman Composer: Some Sour Notes," High Fidelity/Musical America 25 (June 1975), 18-19.



Barth, Prudentia et al. Hildegard von Bingen: Lieder. Salzburg: Otto Mueller, 1969.

Bates, Carol Henry. The Instrumental Music of Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre. Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1979.

Borroff, Edith. An Introduction to Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de La Guerre. Brooklyn: Institute of Mediaeval Music, 1966.

Bradshaw, Susan. "The Music of Elisabeth Lutyens," Musical Times (July 1971), pp. 653-656.

Daughtry, Willia E. Sissieretta Jones: A Study of the Negro's Contribution to 19th Century American Concert and Theatrical Life. Ph.D. dissertation, Syracuse University, 1968.

Friedland, Bea. Louise Farrenc, 1804-1875: Composer, Performer, Scholar. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981.

Gaume, Mary Matilda. Ruth Crawford Seeger: Her Life and Work. Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1973.

Grant, Barbara. "Five Liturgical Songs by Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)," Signs V (Spring 1980), 557-567.

Kendall, Alan. The Tender Tyrant: Nadia Boulanger, A Life Devoted to Music. Wilton, Conn.: Lyceum Books, 1977.

Raney, Carolyn. Francesca Caccini, Musician to the Medici, and her Primo Libro (1618). Ph.D. dissertation, New York University, 1971.

Reich, Nancy B. "Louise Reichardt," Ars Musica, Ars Scientia: Festschrift Heinrich Hueschen. Köln: Gitarre & Laute Verlag (1980), 369-377.

Rosand, Ellen. "Barbara Strozzi, virtuosissima cantatrice: The Composer's Voice," Journal of the American Musicological Society XXXI (Summer 1978), 241-281.

Rosenstiel, Leonie. The Life and Works of Lili Boulanger. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1978.

2734 Last modified on October 25, 2018