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Maud Powell, the first great American virtuoso violinist, sparked a change in the spirit of the advancement of classical music throughout North America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This document addresses gender inequality present in the classical music profession during Powell’s lifetime. It also explores the roles women occupied in the public and private spheres in Western art music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More specifically, it investigates the life of virtuoso violinist Maud Powell through her activism and interest in American women in professional music.
The document is divided into three parts. After a brief biography of Maud Powell, Part I defines women’s place in Western art music of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Chapter 1 begins with a discussion of the private and public spheres and women’s place in professional music. Chapter 2 discourses women and the violin with brief descriptions of all the renowned women violinists prior to Maud Powell. Chapter 3 examines women’s music clubs and female soloists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Part II of the document focuses on Maud Powell’s specific contributions to the role of women in professional music. This encompasses her work at the World’s Columbian Exposition, her encouragement of women as symphony performers, conductors, and composers, how she broke new ground as a chamber musician, and her reactions to sexism. Part III explores Maud Powell’s fluctuating opinion on the suffrage movement. It concludes with current affairs of gender equality in music.
This document provides the historical context for the world in which Maud Powell lived, her navigation of that world as a woman concert artist, and how she implemented her authority as a celebrity and influential figure in Western art music to improve the lives of American women in professional music.
Advisor: Hyeyung Julie Yoon