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Society of Women Musicians

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1249 Society of Women Musicians
Held at: Royal College of Music
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Full title: Society of Women Musicians
Date(s): 1892-1974
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 4 boxes and 6 volumes
Name of creator(s): Society of Women Musicians


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Society of Women Musicians was founded in London in 1911 by the singer Gertrude Eaton, the composer Katharine Eggar and the musicologist Marion M. Scott. It aimed to provide a focal point for women composers and performers to meet and enjoy the benefits of mutual cooperation. The 37 women at the inaugural meeting included musicians such as Ethel Barns, Rebecca Clarke, Agnes Larkcom, Anne Mukle and her sister, May Mukle, and Liza Lehmann, who became the society's first president. Later presidents included Cécile Chaminade, Fanny Davies, Rosa Newmarch, Myra Hess, Astra Desmond and Elizabeth Poston. Early members included Florence Marshall, Maude Valérie White and Ethel Smyth, who was honorary vice-president from 1925 to 1944. Among subsequent honorary vice-presidents were Nadia Boulanger, Imogen Holst, Elisabeth Lutyens, Elizabeth Maconchy and Fanny Waterman. By the end of its first year the society had formed a choir and a library, given several private concerts and a public concert of members' works (which included the première of the first two movements of Smyth's String Quartet in E minor), hosted a variety of lectures, held a composers' conference and attracted 152 female members and 20 male associates, including Thomas Dunhill and W W Cobbett, who donated the Cobbett Free Library of Chamber Music to the Society in 1918. By 1913 the Society had also formed an orchestra.In the 61 years of its existence, the society campaigned vigorously for the rights of women musicians, especially as members of professional symphony orchestras, and awarded prizes to composers and performers, as well as continuing to organize concerts and meetings. In 1972, the year after its Diamond Jubilee had been celebrated at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, the organization disbanded.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the Society of Women Musicians (SWM), 1911-1972, including annual reports, 1914-1972; minutes, 1967-1973; book of members elected and resigning, 1920-1960; fixture cards, 1915-1971; memorandum and articles of association, 1930; programmes and handbills of concerts, recitals and lectures organised by the SWM, 1912-1972; notices to members, 1911-1972; programmes of Ivimey Concerts, 1966-1971; papers relating to the foundation of the society in 1911, its constitution and initial membership, comprising correspondence, minutes, notes; correspondence on engagement of women with professional orchestras, 1920, 1928-1929; correspondence with speakers for lectures, 1933-1971; correspondence relating to BBC women's conference, 1936; correspondence with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music regarding the appointment of women examiners,1937-1956; various correspondence relating to the SWM presidency, membership, SWM library accessions, celebrations of SWM golden jubilee, 1961 and diamond jubilee 1971; news cuttings on the deaths of K Dorothy Fox, 1934, Marion Margaret Scott, 1953, and Katharine Emily Eggar, 1961, with related correspondence; printed material including The Music Student: special number devoted to the subject of women's work in music, May 1918; pamphlet of meeting in commemoration of Marion Margaret Scott, Jun 1954; press cuttings books relating to women musicians and the SWM, 1892-1964; correspondence relating to the dissolution of the SWM and donation of its records to the Royal College of Music, 1973-1974.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In files, roughly corresponding to scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Usual conditions of the Library of the Royal College of Music apply. See the RCM website or contact the RCM Library for details.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is permitted at the discretion of the Archivist for research purposes only.

Finding aids:

The material is uncatalogued.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated by the Society to the RCM, 1973-1974, via Margaret Paterson, Society President.

Allied Materials

Related material:

RCM Library also holds the papers of Marion Scott, which contain a small amount of correspondence relating to the Society of Women Musicians.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Robert Baxter as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project. Source: Article by Sophie Fuller, Grove Dictionary of Music.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 2001

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