By the People: Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music

Sheet music cover for "I'm Going to Be a Suffragette" featuring a woman dressed in a tuxedo and top hat.

Sandy Engelke, composer. D.R. Miller, lyricist. “I’m Going to Be a Suffragist.” 1910. Library of Congress Music Division.

Last month, the Music Division touted its first collaboration with the Library’s By the People crowd-sourcing transcription project with “Federal Theatre Project Playbills.” We’re now excited to announce a new lyric transcription campaign: “Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music.” The public is invited to interact directly with a selection of historic sheet music created for and about the suffrage movement. Within the collection you’ll find rally songs for meetings and demonstrations, songsters that offer new lyrics to familiar tunes, and popular songs that both celebrate and vilify suffragists. Some of the popular music was published for commercial distribution, but many pieces in the collection are handwritten, unpublished copyright deposits for songs written by amateur musicians. Sheet music provides a fascinating lens through which to study the many perspectives, attitudes, and arguments of the day – and you’ll encounter them all as you explore!

Once the text of the sheet music is transcribed (in this campaign, that includes lyrics, advertisements, etc.), transcriptions will be published and available in the digital collection Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music. The sheet music will then be full-text searchable, and text transcriptions for each piece of sheet music and each page will be downloadable. We hope you’ll try transcribing for yourself – and if you do, leave feedback for us in the comments below!

Past In the Muse Blog posts related to our suffrage sheet music collections:

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