Woman’s Position in the Violin World, September. 1901
“Many stern, unyielding critics of to-day refuse to believe that a woman is capable of achieving greatness as a player of the violin. These critics, both professional and amateur, concede woman’s fitness to accomplish agreeable things as players of the king of instruments, but they are unwilling to believe that she possesses either the mental qualifications or the physical strength and endurance to enable her successfully to compete with man in the mastery of violin-technics. Time alone will decide whether these critics are right.
On the other hand, it cannot be denied that, where the higher art of violin-playing is concerned, the average gifted woman labors under certain great disadvantages which too often prove fatal, insurmountable barriers to success. How many are blessed with the physical strength which is necessary to carry them through the long hard years of musical servitude? The limit of their physical endurance is not often commensurate with the demands of their art; and just when the greatest effort is required of them—when their highest musical and instrumental possibilities are dependent upon a continuance, if not an increase, of energy and vitality—they fail to put forth the requisite strength, and stop far short of their aspirations."
Women As Orchestral Players: An American Point Of View. - October, 1901
“It is freely admitted that women are capable and conscientious workers, and that a certain refining influence would necessarily result from their presence in an orchestral organization. But imagine women undertaking the work entailed by a New York operatic season! Imagine a refined, delicately-constituted young woman enduring the actual hardships which fall to the lot of every individual orchestral member of the Metropolitan Opera! Let any woman who imagines herself capable of performing such work as these men perform acquaint herself with what is required of the orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera House. She will be quickly disillusioned.
In a word, the orchestra is decidedly not woman’s sphere. Nor can she hope to accomplish anything by attempting to make it hers. And, wholly aside from all musical and physical considerations, which of us cares to see a charming young lady frantically struggling with a bass tuba or trombone?—George Lehmann.”
Tee hee. Chortle chortle. People were so foolish then!
After this, I continued wasting time by checking in with Facebook. First thing I saw? A post by my friend Laura Kobayashi* from BBC News entitled, Orchestras ‘still hostile to women’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-25881668). Huh. It seems that many of the same arguments used against women playing violin (and other instruments) in orchestras more than a century ago are now being lobbed at female conductors—even established ones like Marin Alsop. To quote: “…several prominent men queried her [Alsop’s] appointment as the first female conductor of the Last Night of the Proms last year. Bruno Mantavani, head of the Paris Conservatoire, said most women would find conducting too ‘physically demanding’. ‘Sometimes women are disheartened by the physical aspect,’ he told France Musique. ‘Conducting, flying, conducting again is quite demanding.’”
Perhaps he neglects to use a plane?
The article continues, “Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko also claimed orchestral musicians could be distracted by a female lead, saying that ‘a cute girl on a podium means that musicians think about other things’.”
And that’s the woman’s fault?
It seems astonishing to me that anyone today would think these things about women conductors, let alone say them out loud to the press. The more things change, the more they stay the same?
*Laura is a wonderful violinist. You should check out her cd of music by women composers, Feminissimo!