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Recent scholarship highlights the great impact women's music clubs and patrons had upon United States art music culture from the middle of the nineteenth through the twentieth centuries. Women's music clubs were present in almost every decent sized city by the beginning of the twentieth century, which made outreach practical and effective. These clubs actively promoted art music culture by organizing amateur concerts, semi-professional chamber concerts, and artist solo concerts. Michael Broyles explains that the clubs "later helped form musical institutions, including in some cases symphony orchestras" and "by the early twentieth century had become a powerful economic force, handling an estimated three-fourths of concert engagements outside the large cities." Up to this point, scholarship has mainly focused on the influence of the women's music clubs on United States culture and only briefly, if at all, mentions their actual emergence. At first glance, it seems impossible to pinpoint a solid establishment date for women's music clubs, as many developed separately from one another over the span of decades. One trend that is noticeable, however, is a surge of new women's club formations and the number of members in the handful of already established clubs in the first decade of the twentieth century. This increase is not entirely coincidence, for it happened shortly after the highly successful 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition. In many ways, the World's Columbian Exposition propelled the United States, and its people, into the world-wide cultural, industrial, and agricultural scenes. Many primary sources also credit the World's Columbian Exposition as the event that truly gave many women a voice through the congressionally recognized Board of Lady Managers, who met at their own Women's Building. Following the paradigm of the national formation of the General Federation of Women's Clubs in 1889, Rose Fay Thomas saw the similar opportunity for women in music to connect and form an analogous organization for music clubs at the World's Columbian Exposition. As a result, Thomas organized a four-day conference to be held at World's Columbian Exposition and invited forty-two active women's music clubs to participate: thirty-four attended. As is reflected in the policies of clubs formed after the World's Columbian Exposition and in archival documents of the conference and National Federation of Music Clubs, Rose Fay Thomas's four-day convention essentially set the core objectives by which many future music clubs would operate. Rose Fay Thomas's idea materialized as the National Federation of Music Clubs in 1898, which Karen J. Blair described as "the largest and most influential organization uniting women's musical societies" of all time. Twentieth century women's music clubs would not have grown in number or power without two crucial factors: Rose Fay Thomas's potent initiative and influence moving towards a national women's music club organization, and the new and invaluable opportunities presented by the monumental 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.
women's music clubs, rose fay thomas, world's columbian exposition
Date of Defense
April 4, 2011.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Musicology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Music.
Includes bibliographical references.
Denise Von Glahn, Professor Directing Thesis; Michael Broyles, Committee Member; Karen Bearor, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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