Increasing Accessibility of Literature: Women Violinists in the Eighteenth Century

Lead Author Affiliation

Music History

Lead Author Status

Faculty Mentor

Second Author Affiliation

Music Education

Second Author Status

Undergraduate - Sophomore

Third Author Affiliation

Music Education

Third Author Status

Undergraduate - Sophomore

Fourth Author Affiliation

Music Therapy

Fourth Author Status

Undergraduate - Junior

Fifth Author Affiliation

Music Education

Fifth Author Status

Undergraduate - Sophomore

Sixth Author Affiliation

Music, Social Science, Political Science

Sixth Author Status

Undergraduate - Sophomore

Additional Authors

Author 7 - [Jenna Williamson] - English; Undergraduate - Senior

Author 8 [Judy Kim] - Piano Performance; Undergraduate - Junior

Research or Creativity Area

Humanities & Arts

Abstract

Women were socially prohibited from playing violin in eighteenth-century Europe. Particularly in England, women were discouraged from professional music (except voice); violin was seen as particularly unwomanly because it distorts the chin and looks “ugly.” Nevertheless, women violinists existed: Marianne Davies (1743/4-1818), Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen (1745-1818), Gertrud Schmeling (1749-1833) [later Madame Mara], Regina Strinasacchi Schlick (1761-1839), Louise Deschamps Gautherot (1763-1808), Luigia Gerbini (1770-1818), Dorette Scheidler Spohr (1787-1834) among others. All relied on support from male figures (fathers, husbands, teachers); some stopped touring after marriagem whereas others (Gautherot, Gerbini, Davies, Strinassachi) did. Some, despite extraordinary musical talent, abandoned for another instrument (Schmeling/Mara, voice; Spohr, harp). If they played their own works (now lost), they often hid their authorship.

Despite the scholarly literature and the evident success of many of these figures from surviving concert programs, autobiographies, and contemporary reviews, little information on eighteenth-century women violinists was available on Wikipedia. Articles on women figures are generallyless well developed than for men. Some prominent women lack a Wikipedia; anonymous users also commonly delete pages on women, and editors sometimes determine these women failed the “notability” standard – which they always will in music, so long as composers are deemed more important than performers – even highly notable performers.

We edited and created Wikipedia pages for women violinists to make the literature on them more accessible. At least one new article made it through the acceptance process (Gerbini), although others were denied. We made several edits amplifying womens’ biographies and instrumental abilities, borrowing from some previously untranslated resources. Updating and improving this information can help preserve the history and make women’s accomplishments available for other researchers.

Purpose

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Results

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Significance

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Increasing Accessibility of Literature: Women Violinists in the Eighteenth Century

Women were socially prohibited from playing violin in eighteenth-century Europe. Particularly in England, women were discouraged from professional music (except voice); violin was seen as particularly unwomanly because it distorts the chin and looks “ugly.” Nevertheless, women violinists existed: Marianne Davies (1743/4-1818), Maddalena Lombardini Sirmen (1745-1818), Gertrud Schmeling (1749-1833) [later Madame Mara], Regina Strinasacchi Schlick (1761-1839), Louise Deschamps Gautherot (1763-1808), Luigia Gerbini (1770-1818), Dorette Scheidler Spohr (1787-1834) among others. All relied on support from male figures (fathers, husbands, teachers); some stopped touring after marriagem whereas others (Gautherot, Gerbini, Davies, Strinassachi) did. Some, despite extraordinary musical talent, abandoned for another instrument (Schmeling/Mara, voice; Spohr, harp). If they played their own works (now lost), they often hid their authorship.

Despite the scholarly literature and the evident success of many of these figures from surviving concert programs, autobiographies, and contemporary reviews, little information on eighteenth-century women violinists was available on Wikipedia. Articles on women figures are generallyless well developed than for men. Some prominent women lack a Wikipedia; anonymous users also commonly delete pages on women, and editors sometimes determine these women failed the “notability” standard – which they always will in music, so long as composers are deemed more important than performers – even highly notable performers.

We edited and created Wikipedia pages for women violinists to make the literature on them more accessible. At least one new article made it through the acceptance process (Gerbini), although others were denied. We made several edits amplifying womens’ biographies and instrumental abilities, borrowing from some previously untranslated resources. Updating and improving this information can help preserve the history and make women’s accomplishments available for other researchers.