Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

The Significance of Familial Home Support for Australian Female Musicians and Music Educators from 1890 to 1950: Three Case Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Historical Research in Music Education

The Significance of Familial Home Support for Australian Female Musicians and Music Educators from 1890 to 1950: Three Case Studies

Article excerpt


Balancing work and home duties can be a challenge for music educators, particularly women. As early as the nineteenth century, Clara Schumann (1819-96) gave support to her husband, the composer Robert Schumann, while at the same time "she managed their household, bore eight children, and pursued her own successful composing and performing career." (1) Her rival female recital pianists had given up their careers "when they married or found they could not keep up with the stresses of combining family and profession." (2) Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-53), a North American, gave up her composition work for many years once her children were born. (3) Her children believed their mother "felt a conflict between her composing and her family." (4) Schumann and Seeger have not been alone in their work/home life challenges.

As a sociological and historical issue, the challenge for women to balance professional music work and home duties, and the support required to underpin this balance, have not been analyzed in detail. There has been an enormous increase in the amount of literature and research related to women in music across the Western world since the 1970s. This began in 1975 with Donald Hixon and Don Hennessee's Women in Music: A Biobibliography, in 1981 with Aaron Cohen's International Encyclopaedia of Women Composers, and in 1987 with James

Briscoe's Historical Anthology of Music by Women (5). This was followed by Diane Peacock Jezic's Women Composers: The Lost Tradition Found in 1988, among others. (6) It continued with publications such as Gene Claghorn's Women Composers and Songwriters of 1996, Derek Hyde's New Found Voices in 1998, and James Briscoe's Contemporary Anthology of Music by Women of 1997. (7) These types of "substantial new biographies, ... dissertations on and musical analysis" of women composers were significant, but less has been published about women music teachers. (8) Well-known teachers such as the French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger and the American music educator Satis Coleman have been written about in detail, but women composers in general have received more attention than women music teachers. (9) A reasonable amount has been written about the experiences and achievements of early and current women musicians, but a comprehensive analysis of the home support that underpinned their success has not occurred. (10) Why is this so?

A Lack of Focus on Home Support

It could be argued that this deficiency is owing to the fact that the types of women who were able to be active in music in earlier periods were women like Sophie Drinker (1888-1967), who was of high socioeconomic status and had servants to complete household duties. (11) Drinker was an American-born feminist writer and author of Music & Women (1948). Because of its feminist discussion and the negative response of critics, Music & Women originally survived underground via hand-to-hand circulation among women musicians and historians. It was republished by the Feminist Press at the City University of New York in 1995. Drinker was also active in music and particularly encouraged women to pursue musical activities and pursuits. For Drinker, home support was not an issue. This theory is not supportable, though, as other women such as Clara Schumann struggled constantly with financial constraints, particularly after her husband, Robert, died. She spent considerable time away from home to earn money through recital work, relying on others to look after her children. Alternatively, the lack of focus on home support could be because "musicologists have paid little attention to the sociology of music";12 hence, as a sociological issue, work/life balance has not been a focus of research in musicology or music history.

Another contributing factor may be that "although women have always made music, they have been subject to limitations and prescriptions; historically they have been encouraged as amateurs but not as professionals. …

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