Portsmouth Central Library
Ethel Smyth (b.1858): Famed for her operas, this trailblazing queer Victorian composer was a larger-than-life socialite, intrepid traveller and committed Suffragette.
Rebecca Clarke (b.1886): This talented violist and Pre-Raphaelite beauty was one of the first women hired by a professional orchestra in London, later celebrated for her modernist experimentation.
Dorothy Howell (b.1898): A prodigy who shot to fame at the 1919 Proms, her reputation as the ‘English Strauss’ never dented her modesty; on retirement, she tended Elgar’s grave alone.
Doreen Carwithen (b.1922): One of Britain’s first woman film composers who scored Elizabeth II’s coronation film, her success hid a 20-year affair with her married composition tutor.
In their time, these women were celebrities. They composed some of the century’s most popular music and pioneered creative careers; but today, they are ghostly presences, surviving only as muses and footnotes to male contemporaries like Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Britten – until now.
Dr Leah Broad is an award-winning music writer, historian, and broadcaster. She holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford and writes about twentieth century music, particularly women in music. Her critically acclaimed first book, Quartet, is a group biography of four women composers. Leah regularly works with performers and institutions to reach out to new audiences, using storytelling to bring classical music to life.