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Documenting the Zenith of Women Song Composers: A Database of Songs Published in the United States and the British Commonwealth, ca. 1890–1930


This article calls attention to a database devoted to women composers and songwriters and points to a few of the historical issues that this database makes it possible to investigate. The focus is women who composed songs between roughly 1890 and 1930, and who published in the United States, Great Britain, and the British Commonwealth. The database contains more than 15,500 entries of songs and song publications by 1,607 women who wrote in all styles (including classical, popular, and a range of styles in between). The database documents the extraordinary rise and decline of women song composers that occurred in the years before and after the First World War, to identify the leading composers and the most popular poets, and to discuss differences in the careers of American and British women songwriters. Among these was the propensity for American women to self-publish, not only successful women such as Anita Owen and Carrie Jacobs Bond, but also hundreds of amateurs who published just one or two songs. The thirty women with the best representation have at least eighty songs or song collections. At the top of the list are Liza Lehmann (with 334 songs and cycles), Lily Strickland (309), Maude Valerie White (233), and Carrie Jacobs Bond (194). World War I affected women composers deeply, reducing productivity and even ending some careers as songwriters. The database also makes it possible to study shifts in the poetry women chose to set before and after the war.

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