Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music
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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.
See our illustrated and downloadable Transcribing Sheet Music PDF for more help and examples.