Musical Gals: Barbara Strozzi

Music Period: Baroque era (1600 – 1750) Location: Venice, Italy Claim to Fame: Barbara published eight collections of her works and her music used the words with the music to portray meaning. There lies an air of mystery when looking at Barbara Strozzi (1619 – 1677). What we do know, however, brings to light an intriguing musical figure who is one of the most outstanding female composers in history. From a young age, she studied under respected musicians, and went on to publish eight collections of her music within her lifetime. This was an incredible achievement in the male-dominated world...

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Famous Female Outlaws: Pearl Hart

Pearl Hart (born as Pearl Taylor) was born in Ontario, Canada in 1871 and earned notoriety by being one of the only women to rob a stagecoach. She had a fairly ordinary upbringing, coming from a middle class family and receiving a good education. Things changed at 17 when she eloped with Frederick Hart, a bartender, gambler, and heavy drinker. The couple travelled to the Columbian Exposition and Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, where Fred had found work as a midway barker. Pearl was inspired by some of the female speakers she heard, including Annie Oakley. Soon after, she left Fred and...

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Musical Gals: Francesca Caccini 

Music Period: Baroque era (1600 – 1750) Location: Florence, Italy Claim to Fame: the first woman known to have written an opera. She pushed boundaries with her book specifically written for women performers. Francesca Caccini was born on 18th September 1587 to two musicians. Her mother, Lucia di Filippo Gagnolanti, was a singer and her father, Giulio Caccini, was a renowned composer. At the time, her father was the second most highly paid composer and musician for the Medici family. Giulio was also the celebrated author of the most influential singing manual of the 1600s. Due to her...

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Famous Female Outlaws: Grainne Ni Mhaille

Grainne Ni Mhaille, also known by the anglicised version of her name, Grace O’Malley, was an Irish pirate during the 1500s. She was from the Western coast of Ireland and came from a wealthy seafaring family and her father, Eoghan Dubhdara O Maille, was the leader of the O’Malley clan. Growing up, Grace preferred the life she saw her father lead – one of travel and adventure – over her mother’s domestic duties, and she sought to join her father on his ship. She proved to be very capable aboard her father’s ship; she could lead the men and she was good at spotting storms before...

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Musical Gals: Hildegard von Bingen

Music Period: Early Music (500 – 1400) Location: Bermersheim, Germany Claim to Fame: using repeated motifs within her music and giving religious music a freer, almost improvisatory, feel. As Maria von Trapp sings in The Sound of Music, “let’s start at the very beginning”, and discover the story of a female composer from the 1100s. We are talking of Hildegard von Bingen and today we think of her as one of the first identifiable female composers of Western music. Yet, before 1979, there was no mention of her name. You would not find her in any reference book if searching the university library...

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Famous Female Outlaws: Bonnie Elizabeth Parker

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (1910-1934) was famously known as one half of Bonnie and Clyde, the American duo whose criminal activity and relationship during the Great Depression has been highly romanticised. Bonnie met Clyde Barrow when she was just 19. She was already married when she met him, having married when she was 16. At the time she met Clyde, her husband was serving time for murder. Soon after their initial meeting Clyde was imprisoned for robbery. Bonnie visited him every day, and managed to smuggle in a gun to help his escape. He was soon caught and sent back to prison. When he was...

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Musical Gals: Where are all the female composers?

Imagine this. You have walked into your morning registration class and, as always, your form tutor has left everyone a challenge to do. The challenge today is to write down all the women composers you know of. It makes you think for a minute before writing. The word ‘composer’ has stopped you. There are of lots of female artists within the music industry today and many who write their own music. You start writing down names and after two minutes of writing your list contains the likes of Adele, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rhianna, Katy Perry, Ellie Goulding, Meghan Trainor, Miley Cyrus, and of...

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Political Powerhouses: Golda Meir

Golda Meir was born in the Ukraine but when she was eight years old her family moved to the United States. It was during her time living in the U.S. that she became a committed Zionist (a person who supports the re-establishment of the Jewish nation in Israel today). Following her marriage she moved to Palestine where she had two children. Her political activism first drew widespread attention during World War II. She argued there should be increased Jewish immigration considering what was happening to the Jewish population all over Europe at the time. In 1948 she was one of the signatories...

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Famous Female Outlaws: Elise Eskilsdotter

Elise was a Norwegian noblewoman who turned to piracy during the 1400s. She had a normal Norwegian upbringing with her father, Eskild Ågesen, a Knight from Scania and her mother Elisabeth Jakobsdatter Hegle. Her precise date of birth is unknown, but she married in 1420.  At the time, the average age of marriage ranged from late teens to early 20s. She married Olav Nilsson, a member of the noble Skanke family. Olav was a wealthy landowner in Norway and Denmark, and during the Dano-Hanseatic War served Christian I of Denmark as a privateer. However, problems began when the war ended: Olav...

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Mythological Girls: Sekhmet

Sekhmet is one of the oldest Egyptian deities. She was originally the warrior goddess associated with Upper Egypt prior to its unification in 2930 BCE. Her Lower Egyptian equivalent prior to this was Bastet. She had a variety of names including the “Lady of Terror” and the “Lady of Pestilence”, both of which she received from The Book of the Dead. Sekhmet was also referred to as “She Who is Powerful”, which was a name the ancient Egyptians gave to any female deity whom they considered to be dangerous. She was depicted with the head of a lioness wearing a sun disk and a uraeus, as well as...

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