The Role of Women in Music in Nineteenth-Century
PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
During the nineteenth century the position of women in music grew throughout
Europe, and Ireland was no exception. In Dublin, women went from participating in
the city's musical culture as performers to participating as teachers, composers,
organisers, performers and writers.
In the first half of the century, private music teachers such as Mrs Allen
represented women's first steps into promoting Irish music. With the re-organisation
of the Royal Irish Academy of Music in 1856, women were given a new outlet for
their talents as students and teachers. The employment and fair treatment of Fanny
Robinson, as the Royal Irish Academy of Music‟s first female teacher, set a
precedent for equal treatment of women in the music profession. The Royal Irish
Academy of Music continued to employ women as teachers, such as Mrs Scott-
Ffennell, Margaret O‟Hea and Edith Oldham. The nineteenth century saw Dublin's
first female composers, Fanny Robinson, Elena Norton and Annie Patterson,
publishing and performing their music. Women began writing about music as a
means of improving music education and public understanding. One of the greatest
outcomes of the promotion of music by women was the founding of the Feis Ceoil by
Annie Patterson and its organisation and promotion by Patterson and Oldham. The
musical culture of Dublin was given a means through which it could develop while
reviving native Irish music.
This thesis evaluates the contribution made by women to music in nineteenth
century Dublin and examines the areas they were involved in, how they were
perceived and how their important work has been neglected and often forgotten in
accounts of music from that period. It argues their worthiness of an important place
in Ireland's music history.
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