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American Women: Resources from the Performing Arts Collections

Music Collections

Sylvia Fine composes at piano. Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Collection. Library of Congress Music Division.

Selected music collections with a focus on women composer and musicians are included below.

Arsis Press

Arsis Press is a Washington, D.C.-based publishing company dedicated to music of contemporary women composers. Bringing concert music by women composers to the attention of performers and audiences has been the mission of Arsis Press since 1974. The collection contains works by more than 40 composers, including Boone (writing under the name Lyle de Bohun), Vivian Fine, Nancy Vander Vate, and Mary Jeanne Van Appledorn, as well as an early work by Ruth Crawford Seeger.

Carrie Jacobs-Bond

The Carrie Jacobs Bond Collection consists of music manuscripts, papers, photographs, and other materials relating to the personal and professional life of American sentimental song composer Carrie Jacobs Bond (1861-1946). Best known for her songs “I Love You Truly” (1901), “A Perfect Day” (1910), and “God Remembers When the World Forgets” (1913), Bond became an entrepreneur and started her own publishing house in 1896 after experiencing great difficulties getting her music published elsewhere. 

Susannah Armstrong Coleman

Susannah Armstrong Coleman (1897-1985) was an American pianist, composer and teacher. The Susannah Armstrong Coleman Collection consists of music manuscripts, organizational publications, correspondence, programs, photographs, biographical notes, clippings, and miscellaneous items.

Sidney Robertson Cowell

Sidney Robertson Cowell (1903-1995) was a folksong and ethnic music collector and recordist, ethnographer, ethnomusicologist, teacher, writer, and wife of composer Henry Cowell. The collection consists of her personal papers which document all aspects of her life and work.

Selma Epstein

Selma Epstein (1927-2014) was a concert pianist, teacher, promoter of contemporary music, and champion of 20th-century black and female composers. The collection contains contemporary music scores, many by women and African-American composers, as well as a small amount of clippings and promotional materials.

Geraldine Farrar

The Geraldine Farrar Collection contains music, including compositions by Farrar; correspondence; concert programs; Metropolitan Opera contracts; drafts of her autobiography Such Sweet Compulsion; scripts for radio programs; and photographs. Fifty-five phonograph records that were included have been transferred to the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division.

Vivian Fine

Vivian Fine was an American composer, pianist, and educator. The collection primarily consists of Fine's holograph manuscript scores, sketches, and parts for works composed between 1929 and 1993. In addition, the collection contains a small amount of correspondence, programs, and clippings.

Alma Gluck

The Alma Gluck Collection (11 scrapbooks) documents the life of the notable American soprano Alma Gluck (1884-1938) with particular emphasis on the years from 1909 to 1917, when she was at her height as a performer and recording artist. The collection includes photographs, annotated music scores, and scrapbooks of performance reviews. 

Helen Hopekirk

Pianist and composer Helen Hopekirk (1856-1945) was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and received her musical training in Europe. She made her American debut in 1883 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, under the management of her husband, the music critic William A. Wilson. In 1897 she accepted a teaching position at the New England Conservatory and became a fixture in the musical life of Boston. The collection contains her original music manuscripts, scores by other composers inscribed to her, biographical material, and five scrapbooks of press clippings and programs.

Silvia Fine

Sylvia Fine (1913-1991) was a writer and composer of musical comedy best known for the special material she wrote for her husband, the actor and comedian Danny Kaye. Fine wrote songs for several of Kaye's films. The Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Collection contains music, scripts, books, slides, programs, and various research materials related to these shows. Other music manuscripts, printed music, and lyric sheets by Fine are also found in the collection, as well as material relating to the career of Danny Kaye.

C. Walbridge. Marian MacDowell at the piano with Nina Maud Richardson. 1940. Music Division, Library Of Congress.

Dorothea Dix Lawrence

Dorothea Dix Lawrence was a successful opera singer in the 1930s and 1940s who later became a recitalist and folklorist. The materials in the collection include correspondence, scores, photographs, clippings and other items that document her career as a singer and interpreter of American folk music. In addition, the collection includes her articles on American folklore that were published in various journals, and two copies of her famous Folklore Music Map of the United States.

Marian MacDowell

Marian MacDowell (1857-1956) was the wife of composer and pianist Edward MacDowell and founded the MacDowell Colony for creative artists in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The essay “The House that Marian Built” in this volume is largely based on material from the Edward and Marian MacDowell Collection, and discusses it in some detail.

Leonora Jackson McKim

Leonora Jackson McKim (1880-1969) was one of the first American women to achieve international acclaim as a concert violinist. She retired from performing after her marriage in 1915 to Dr. William Duncan McKim (1855-1935). The McKims were avid supporters of the arts, and the McKim Fund was established in 1970 for the creation and appreciation of music for violin and piano. The McKim Fund Collection consists of the personal papers of Leonora Jackson McKim and the holograph music scores of the McKim Fund commissions. Among the personal papers are clippings of performance reviews; programs; posters and other publicity material; photographs, including one of Susan B. Anthony with a Mrs. Gross of Chicago; correspondence; Leonora's music library; and an extensive collection of her writings, including novels, short stories, plays, and poetry in manuscript form.

Loretta Cessor Manggrum

Loretta C. Manggrum (1896-1992) was a notable composer, teacher, and church musician who in 1953 became the first African American to receive a master's degree from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. She composed numerous works for church, including her cantatas Christ Our Lord (1953) and Watch (1958). The Manggrum Collection contains printed and manuscript musical scores, programs, and other biographical materials.

National Negro Opera Company

Mary Cardwell Dawson (1894-1962) founded the National Negro Opera Company in 1941 and managed the company until it ceased with her death in1962. The National Negro Opera Company Collection contains financial records, correspondence, photographs, music, programs, and promotional material. Also included are scrapbooks and miscellaneous biographical material of the soprano La Julia Rhea (1908-1992), who performed with the company in 1941. Other notable female singers who performed with the company include Carol Brice (1916-1985), Debria Brown (b. 1932?), Minto Cato (1900-1979), Lillian Evanti (1890-1967), Omega King (1892-1973), Muriel Rahn (1911-1961), and Camilla Williams (b. 1922).

Anita O'Day

Anita O'Day was an American jazz vocalist. The collection primarily consists of manuscript scores, lead sheets, parts, and annotated sheet music for arrangements of popular songs and jazz standards performed by O'Day throughout her career. In addition, it contains a small amount of scrapbooks, photographs, correspondence, clippings, honors and awards, posters, and publicity materials.

Florence Parr-Gere

Florence Parr-Gere, born in Canada and longtime resident of New York, was a pianist and composer. Her papers contain published music, photographs, clippings, correspondence, a scrapbook, publicity materials, posters and other materials related to her experiences at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau and lifelong musical pursuits.

Maud Powell

Violin virtuoso Maud Powell (1867-1920) achieved international distinction in her performing career at a time when female solo instrumental performers were rare. She enjoyed the support of her husband, who was also her manager, and continued to perform up until her untimely death at the age of fifty-two. The Maud Powell Collection consists of the research material compiled for Karen A. Shaffer and Neva Garner Greenwood's biography Maud Powell: Pioneer American Violinist. Included in the collection are binders containing copies of programs, reviews, advertisements, periodical articles about Maud Powell, research correspondence, and almost six hundred photographs. 

Arthur P. Schmidt Company

The Arthur P. Schmidt Company Archives include the records of the music publishing company, correspondence with composers, and autograph manuscripts used for the printed editions, many by women composers. Women represented in the collection include Marion Bauer, Amy Beach, Gena Branscombe, Mabel Daniels, Helen Hopekirk, Margaret Ruthven Lang, and others. (Adrienne Fried Block discusses Arthur P. Schmidt's support of women composers in "Arthur P. Schmidt, Music Publisher and Champion of American Women Composers," in The Musical Woman: An International Perspective, vol. 2, 1984-1945, ed. Judith Lang Zaimon, Catherine Overhauser, and Jane Gottlieb (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1987), 145-76.)

Ruth Crawford Seeger and Peggy Seeger

The Seeger Family Collection documents the lives and careers of pioneering musicologist Charles Louis Seeger, his second wife, modernist composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, and their eldest daughter, folksinger and songwriter Peggy Seeger through their music manuscripts, personal and professional papers, and correspondence. The first woman to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship in Composition, Ruth Crawford Seeger was a respected figure in the American musical avant-garde early in her career. After her marriage, her musical interests turned to folk song when her husband became involved in collecting American folk music.

Beverly Sills

The Beverly Sills Collection was established in 1992 with an initial gift of forty scrapbooks from the noted American soprano Beverly Sills (1929-2007). Twenty-eight scrapbooks chronicle her life and career, four are devoted solely to her recordings, and eight are devoted to specific topics. They contain clippings, photographs, correspondence, programs, promotional materials, and other items. A brief finding aid to the scrapbooks is available.

Dana Suesse

Dana Suesse was an American pianist, composer and lyricist, touted as "the girl Gershwin" by newspapers in the 1930s. The collection documents Suesse's life and career, and includes music manuscripts, scripts, correspondence, photographs, programs, business papers, scrapbooks, recordings, and tapes of interviews with Suesse.

Louise Talma

Louise Talma was an American composer, pianist, and teacher. She was a student of Nadia Boulanger and a long-time resident of Fontainebleau and the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. The collection consists of music manuscripts, harmony and teaching materials, correspondence, photographs, business papers, clippings, programs, publicity materials, writings, awards and other materials related to her career and her family's history.

Jeanine Tesori

Jeanine Tesori (b. November 10, 1961, known earlier in her career as Jeanine Levenson) is an American musical theatre composer, arranger, pianist, and conductor. She started her career in music working in New York as a pianist, arranger, and conductor in musical theatre on- and off-Broadway. Tesori's major works in music theatre include Fun Home; Caroline, or Change; Shrek the Musical; Thoroughly Modern Millie; and Violet.  

Ethel L. Voynich

Ethel Lillian Voynich (1864-1960) was a social activist, novelist, translator, and composer. Voynich's musical compositions, based principally on sacred or poetic texts, are represented by holograph manuscript scores, sketches, lyric sheets, printed music, and notes. The remaining materials consist of subject files on musicological topics, research materials, and a handful of programs.