Five Notable Women in Music History

Above, left to right: Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, Clara Schumann, Carrie Jacobs-Bond, Dorothy Fields, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe


Happy Women’s History Month! Today, let’s honor a few notable women in music history.

Like most aspects of the... music business, songwriting was a male-dominated field. Though there were plenty of female singers on the radio, women... were primarily seen as consumers:... Singing was sometimes an acceptable pastime for a girl, but playing an instrument, writing songs, or producing records simply wasn't done... [and women] were not socialized to see themselves as people who create [music].

Erika Abrams in Rebeat, 28 January 2015

Despite this, there are many women who went against the grain and established themselves as successful musicians and composers. Additionally, it was accepted that women would have a role in music education, and they became involved in this field "to such a degree that women dominated music education during the later half of the 19th century and well into the 20th century.”

Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre was a French composer, musician and harpsichordist. She became a musician in the Royal Court and taught, composed, and gave concerts at home and throughout Paris, to great acclaim.

Clara Schumann was a German composer and concert pianist who had a 61-year concert career, which changed the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public.

Carrie Jacobs-Bond was the "preeminent woman composer of the late 1800's and well into the middle of the twentieth century... [making her] the first million-selling woman" songwriter.

Dorothy Fields wrote the lyrics for over 400 songs, some of which were played by Duke Ellington. She co-wrote "The Way You Look Tonight", which won the 1936 Oscar for Best Song. She co-wrote several jazz standards still famous today.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a pioneer of mid-20th-century music, known as "the original soul sister" and "the Godmother of rock and roll”. Her unique mixture of spiritual lyrics and rhythmic accompaniment was a precursor of rock and roll.

Who are your favorite women in music? Tell us in the comments!

Continuing Music in Our Schools Month, here are some more ways to celebrate music in your school:

Ask students to cut pictures of music and musicians out of magazines and create a musical wall collage for your classroom(s).

Create a video for local advocacy. Record your students performing and include an introduction from your principal, mayor, or another leader demonstrating their support for music education. 

Share your story with your students. Who inspired you? Why did you pursue music?

Share how you celebrate Music in Our Schools Month and Women’s History Month on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Use the hashtag #miosm and tag MUST at @mustcreate on Twitter and @musicinschoolstoday on Instagram!


Music in Schools Today