Alexandra Coghlan

Why are women composers still disregarded?

Leah Broad celebrates four pioneering musicians who battled male prejudice throughout the past century – yet the situation remains stubbornly unchanged

Ethel Smyth adopted tweed suits in her desire to be an honorary man. [Bridgeman Images]

Did you know that throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th it was considered a ‘biological impossibility’ for women to sustain the kind of abstract thought required for serious musical composition? Or that in the 1910s women in London could be compelled to sit separately from men in concert halls, sometimes even denied entry if not in academic dress? How about the fact that the Halle Orchestra summarily dismissed all its female members in 1920? Or that from 1952 to 1962 only eight works by women were performed at the Proms? For a bonus point, can you name...

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