Women in History: Composers

Throughout history, women have contributed to the arts in a variety of ways. Women composers have written, created, and performed some of the most inspiring art in history. Yet, much of the time, these women have been forgotten along the way. With such historic contributions, women composers have changed history in ways that should be recognized and remembered.


Women in music have played various roles throughout the years. Composers, performers, and conductors are just some of the parts that women have played in the field of music. The first female composer was Hildegard von Bingen, a nun who lived during the middle ages. Hildegard was a prolific writer who wrote several pieces of music. The evidence of her writings has been found and is considered the oldest of female musical compositions. During the 18th century, women were still considered to be less important than men, and were taught some of the arts to be a source of entertainment. Many of these women went on from using their musical gifts for entertaining their husbands to composing and performing brilliant pieces of music. Clara Schumann, who was married to a composer, was a gifted pianist and composer herself. She spent many years traveling and playing to uplift those around her in her concerts. Historically, women all over the world have performed and inspired others with their musical talents. In the 21st century, women have successfully come into a realm of being appreciated for their gifts, providing the music world with a feminine slant that cannot be reproduced by men.


Notable female artists throughout the centuries have been understated. For many years, women deferred to men when claiming an audience for their art. Early forms of art were items that were sewn or handled with a spindle to create wall hangings or coverings, and were something women could create to express art within the work. As the renaissance period began, painting became more common. Women were depicted in the paintings more than were actually given credit for creating them. Still life paintings and portraits became common during this period, and women also began developing in the area of sculpture. It was during this time that people were beginning to receive education in the area of art, although most schools only reserved places for men. Women who received an education in art were usually only allowed because of a family member who was involved in the trade. In the 19th century, the number of art schools increased as well as art societies. The rise of feminism in the 20th century opened the doors for many women to finally begin attending schools equally with men and to gain prominence in many art societies, finally receiving credit for the work they had done.


Women have been writing for many years. Poetry, like many other art forms, is a source of expression for women who lived in oppressive circumstances. The poems of women have conveyed a beauty that has not always been recognized in other prose. Poetry was written as a way of revealing what was seen surrounding the woman writing it. The impact of relationships with others also formed the basis for many poems of women, and their prose ranges from lilting verse to the contemporary political-infused words of today. One well-known poet from the 19th century was Emily Dickinson, who was a recluse and took to writing as a form of communication with others. Her writing was affected by those around her and her losses in life. Her poetry was not discovered until after her death, and then published posthumously. Contemporary women poets tend to focus more on issues at hand, political views, or race. Nikki Giovanni, an African American female poet, is known for her writing about activism and education. Women today have more opportunities to be published as feminism has bridged many gaps for women to express themselves through poetry.

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