Celebrate Women’s History Month with Music Research Guides

Women’s History Month is filled with blog posts, articles, and public programs dedicated to the celebration and recognition of women’s contributions to society. The Music Division is happy to promote the following research guides on women in music, some of which were recently published just in time for Women’s History Month.

Black and white photograph portrait of composer Eleanor Everest Freer sitting at the piano.

Portrait of Eleanor Everest Freer. Bain News Service Photograph Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-B2- 6145-9 [P&P].

American Women: Resources from the Performing Arts Collections highlights collections and resources in the Music Division that document the lives and works of significant women in music, theater, and dance. Learn about specific women who made headlines in jazz, opera, concert halls, the stage, and film; or, study the depiction of women in sheet music cover art from a specific time period. The guide provides search strategies for navigating the over 25 million items in the Music Division’s collections, along with links to digitized content that will satisfy any number of needs for the researcher interested in the history of women in the performing arts.

Eleanor Everest Freer: A Guide to Resources provides resources to research the life and work of American composer Eleanor Everest Freer (1864-1942), an advocate for American opera as well as a skilled singer and composer. Freer studied voice and composition in Paris at 20 years old and, upon her return to the United States, taught voice at the National Conservatory of the United States in New York during Dvorak’s tenure as head of the conservatory. She was the founder of the American Opera Society of Chicago, a society that established the David Bispham Memorial Medal Award for American opera composers who created works on an American subject. Freer herself composed 11 operas, including Little Women, A Legend of Spain, The Masque of Pandora, and The Legend of the Piper (which won the Bispham medal). Many of Freer’s holograph manuscripts are in the Music Division of the Library of Congress.

Gena Branscombe: A Guide to Resources provides resources to research the life and work of American composer Gena Branscombe (1881-1977), who was well-known for her art songs, choral, piano, and chamber music. At 16 years old, Branscombe entered the Chicago Musical College to study piano and composition and, within a few year, won gold medals for original works. She taught in Chicago and then at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, but left to study composition with Engelbert Humperdinck in Berlin. After marrying in 1910, Branscombe moved to New York City where she simultaneously pursued a career while having four daughters within five years. Branscombe was a choral conductor, a composer, a writer, and the founder of the Branscombe Choral (formerly the American Women’s Association Choral). Her compositional output includes some 150 art songs, piano and chamber music, a few orchestral works, and a large body of choral pieces.

Black and white photograph of five women composers posing for camera in Washington, DC in 1924. Composers are Phyllis Fergus, Ethel Glenn Hier, Amy Beach, Harriet Ware, and Gena Branscombe.

Photograph shows composers (from left to right) Phyllis Fergus (1887-1964), Ethel Glenn Hier (1889-1971), Amy Beach (1867-1944), Harriet Ware (1878-1972), and Gena Branscombe (1881-1977) in McPherson Square, Washington, D.C. in 1924. National Photo Company Collection, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-F81- 30175 [P&P].

Last, but certainly not least, Amy Beach: A Guide to Primary and Secondary Resources at the Library of Congress provides an overview to the print, manuscript, and digital collections in the Library’s Music Division related to the career and music of Amy Beach (1867-1944), the first American woman to achieve widespread recognition as a composer of large-scale works with orchestra. Beach’s notable works include her Mass in E-flat, “Gaelic Symphony,” Piano Concerto, and many art songs. While the Library of Congress does not hold a single, named “Amy Beach Collection,” the Music Division holds substantial material of interest for the Beach researcher, from music manuscripts and published scores, to printed writings, to correspondence to and from the composer, and more.

We hope that these research guides will lead you to helpful resources that strengthen your research and quench your thirst for a greater knowledge of women in music. Search the Library’s listing of research guides related to gender and women’s studies across all divisions, and keep checking back as more guides are published!

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