Inclusion of Women Composers in College Music History Textbooks

By Baker, Vicki D. | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, October 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Inclusion of Women Composers in College Music History Textbooks

Baker, Vicki D., Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

In recent years a heightened interest in the roles that women have played in the history of music has led to an increase in research about and recognition of women musicians. As a result, more written material is now available, including biographies, histories, bibliographies, and biographical dictionaries. The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers (1) includes the lives and works of 875 women composers of Western classical music throughout history. Aaron Cohen's International Encyclopedia of Women Composers (2) lists over 6,000 women composers. In December 2003, Macmillan plans to publish Women Composers: A Historical Anthology, a twelve-volume set of music by women from the ninth through the twelfth centuries. (3)

Support for women in music has evolved in a number of arenas. Publishing companies, such as Hildegard Press, Leonarda Publications, ClarNan Editions, and Arsis Press have been established to promote music by women composers. A number of female symphony orchestras, such as the Women's Symphony of Boston, the Women's Symphony of New York, and the Women's Philharmonic Orchestra in San Francisco, feature works by women composers. (4) More women are now conducting symphony orchestras and are programming pieces written by women. (5) Organizations such as the League of Women Composers, American Women Composers, Inc., and the International Alliance of Women in Music have been created to support and promote women composers and musicians. (6)

Women composers are growing in number and are receiving greater recognition. As early as 1979, American Women Composers estimated that approximately 1,200 women composers were actively writing in the United States. (7) In 1983 Ellen Taaffe Zwilich had the distinction of being the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Music Composition for her Symphony No. 1. Colleges and universities report an increase in the number of women teaching composition, along with a rise in the number of women majoring in theory and composition. (8)

As the number of women actively involved in composition grows and the availability of resources increases, to what extent does this information filter down to the classroom? Has instruction about women composers in college music history classrooms kept pace with the recent surge of research and information?

As a result of the wealth of information about women composers that has become available in recent years, Women in Music courses are now being offered at a number of colleges and universities. In 1979, Jeannie Pool observed that Women in Music history courses were beginning to be offered in high schools, colleges, and conservatories. (9) Calvert Johnson, music professor at Agnes Scott College, a women's liberal arts college in Decatur, Georgia, maintains that great strides have been made in the advancement of women in music in the past ten years, not only on his campus, but at academic institutions across the nation. (10) The International Alliance of Women in Music Journal has featured a number of Women in Music syllabi in its "Educators' Enclave" section. (11)

Although Women in Music courses are invaluable in educating musicians about the contributions of women to music, some educators feel that such a segregated, supplemental approach is not helpful. Margaret Wilkins and Caroline Askew do not agree with the "Women's Studies" approach. Instead, they prefer to integrate women's music alongside men's music in the music history curriculum. Wilkins and Askew say that "putting music into boxes labeled 'Men Only' and 'Women Only' is not the correct way to treat music." (12)

They go on to state that music history classes "which fail to mention any of the women musicians of a period give an unbalanced and untrue picture of events as they really were." (13) Peggy Vagts notes that "some musicians are concerned that by talking about women composers as a separate group we may be dumping women into a sort of cultural ghetto.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Inclusion of Women Composers in College Music History Textbooks


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?