Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music

All done! Launched February 16, 2021 and completed February 23, 2021.

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For as long as socially and politically aware citizens have gathered to protest laws and voice dissent, music has served a paramount role; the women's suffrage movement proves no exception. Women's Suffrage in Sheet Music includes over 200 pieces of sheet music spanning the years 1838-1923, over half of which highlight women's emerging voices and suffrage efforts. The selection includes published rally songs and songsters (collections of poems meant to be sung) written and compiled by notable composers and suffragists, as well as music manuscripts submitted for copyright deposit by amateur musicians. Anti-suffragists raised voices in song as well, and popular music of the era echoed anti-suffrage sentiments with specific references to the movement. The Library of Congress preserves sheet music and songsters that represent suffragist voices, anti-suffrage views, and general societal angst at play throughout the women's suffrage movement, all of which are represented in this campaign.

Sheet music publication was the primary means of disseminating 19th-century music and continued to boom through the early decades of the 20th century. The Library of Congress Music Division was established in 1896 in large part to manage and organize the overwhelming amount of sheet music received as copyright deposits. Much of Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music was acquired through copyright deposit, though a handful of pieces were gifted to the Music Division by individuals (including two donated by suffragist Sophonisba Breckinridge). These suffrage selections represent only a tiny fraction of the Music Division’s sheet music.

Instructions: The primary goal of transcribing sheet music text is to facilitate page-level discovery of lyrics, subjects, and the creators and publishers of the work through the Library's website. Musical notation, performance instructions, and other markings are currently beyond the scope of this program.

  • Only transcribe descriptive text, including titles, lyrics, publication information, and advertisements.
  • Transcribe text in the order it appears on the page (this may differ from the order in which the piece would be performed). Preserve line breaks. If a word is broken across a line or page, transcribe it intact on the initial line or page where it appears.
  • Do not transcribe any musical notation - this includes time and key signatures, expression notes (moderato, allegro, allegretto, etc.), and dynamic markings.
  • Do not transcribe hyphens (or melisma) within lyrics (even if broken across pages), to enable keyword search.
  • Do transcribe the text of illustrated title pages.
  • Do transcribe handwritten notes and Library of Congress cataloging stamps as marginalia.
  • See our illustrated and downloadable Transcribing Sheet Music PDF for more help and examples.