Cover image for Women performing music : the emergence of American women as classical instrumentalists and conductors
Women performing music : the emergence of American women as classical instrumentalists and conductors
Macleod, Beth Abelson, 1945-
Publication Information:
Jefferson, NC : McFarland, [2001]

Physical Description:
ix, 205 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML82 .M24 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This book explores the experiences of women from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who pursued careers as public performers, charting a new course in an era when women's musical activities were generally consigned to the parlor. Certain instruments had historically evolved as "appropriate for women," and the flamboyant personalities and extroverted emotionalism of Romantic virtuosos and conductors were the antithesis of those qualities traditionally admired in women. However, this work presents an unusual group of young women who nonetheless became noted virtuosos, studying abroad as teenagers and touring North America upon their return. Detailed profiles are given of three remarkable musicians from among that unusual group: Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler (1863-1927)--virtuoso pianist, wife and mother; Ethel Leginska (1886-1970)--pianist, conductor, and 1920s "new woman"; and Antonia Brico (1902-1989)--conductor and transitional figure to the late twentieth century. A concluding chapter contrasts the experiences of women classical musicians in the late nineteenth and the late twentieth centuries. Included are a number of photographs and drawings which impart the perceptions of audiences and critics of the stage presence of these performers.

Author Notes

Beth Abelson Macleod is a reference librarian and fine arts bibliographer at Central Michigan University Libraries.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Spurred by her curiosity about public and professional responses to women performers during the 19th and early 20th centuries and by a desire to deepen biographical information available about some of these musicians, Macleod offers insights into career development and its evolution for women instrumental soloists and conductors. Among the strengths of this monograph is its combination of historically grounded general analysis of issues with an examination of three women in greater detail: pianist Fannie Bloomfield-Zeisler (1864-1927), pianist-conductor-composer Ethel Leginska (1886-1970), and conductor Antonia Brico (1902-89). The book notes one common thread linking the diverse careers of these women, their contemporaries, and even current professionals: the crucial role of image. Given gender stereotypes, women suffered professionally to the degree they ventured from conventional images, a reality that created problems for virtuoso soloists and particularly for conductors. Working with archival sources and extensive primary material, Macleod develops a useful and readable book that assembles some of the most substantial biographies of these musicians currently available. Historical photographs and cartoons from periodicals and newspapers enliven the book for undergraduates and general readers, and the extensive endnotes and bibliography serve graduate students and researchers. J. M. Edwards Macalester College

Table of Contents

Fannie Bloomfield-ZeislerEthel LeginskaAntonia Brico
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Prefacep. 1
Introductionp. 3
1. "Whence Comes the Lady Tympanist?"p. 9
2. "He Is Himself a Grand Piano"p. 22
3. "Spoiled for Domesticity"p. 35
4. "An Able Musician and Delightful to Look At"p. 51
5. "A Paderewski in Petticoats"p. 71
6. "A Gypsy Demon Possessed the Little Woman"p. 96
7. "Why Not Dr. Brico?"p. 124
8. "Playing with Style"p. 140
9. Conclusionp. 153
Notesp. 155
Bibliographyp. 183
Indexp. 197