Where are All the Women?: The Gender Bias Against Female Composers in Western Classical Repertoire

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Katharina Uhde


Arts and Sciences


Department of Music Education

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-23-2016


The scarcity of female composers in the Western classical repertoire is indicative of the historic time period they were working in. This paper takes a brief look at the lives and compositions of prominent female composers throughout the ages. Barbara Strozzi, Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Elizabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre will be looked to as specific examples in what is more of a broad overview of women in the compositional world than an in-depth analysis. Of these women in particular, the names that are recognizable are primarily known in relation to the men in their lives while their own musical accomplishments are discussed less often or not at all. The others are more often than not relegated to the backlogs of history or single paragraphs in a music textbook. By looking at the lives of these women, it is evident that their absence in discussions of historically significant composers is not representative of a lack of talent from women in the field but instead of the gender bias of the era.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Nichol Gabor is a senior music education major at Valparaiso University. In her time at Valpo she has been involved in Sigma Alpha Iota, Acabellas, and Residential Life. As a future educator, it was always concerning to note that young women entering the music field had no significant female role models to look to. This sparked the desire to study women of note in the field of musical composition and bring their accomplishments to light.

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