Women’s History Month at Music Maker
inWomen's History Monthon March 28, 2016
Women’s History Month is a perfect time to shine a light on the female musicians who have contributed so much to American musical culture, so often without recognition. Those that did make it to the stage and staked a claim there are the names we remember, but so many more female blues musicians of the last century were unheard outside their homes and communities. The stereotypical picture of the blues player is a wandering, itinerant musician, traveling with his guitar, playing his music and spreading the musical styles of the South across the nation. What we don’t realize is that this stereotype is possible because a woman was in the home, caring for his children, working the fields or the factory, and harboring her own musical talents.
The unknown female musicians of the last hundred and fifty years learned music that was passed down through the generations, and they would in turn pass the love of that music on to their children. In this way, women have kept the musical traditions of the South alive – but for decades were ignored by any mainstream media attention directed at the blues.
Unfortunately, we have limited knowledge of female blues musicians, as their music was not recorded much; researchers did not look for them and often brushed them off when found. Luckily in North Carolina we have been blessed in the Piedmont Blues tradition to have wonderful recordings of Libba Cotten, Etta Baker and Algia Mae Hinton. These artists’ musical influence has traveled throughout the world.
We have done our best at Music Maker to ensure the artists we work with get the recognition and the appreciation they deserve – and for many female Roots artists, such as Algia Mae Hinton or Etta Baker, recognition came late in life. But we still have much to learn from them. Make sure you check out Artist Pages on musicmaker.org for Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen, Cora Mae Bryant, Sweet Betty, Essie Mae Brooks and other great women in roots music!