Women Musicians in the 18th Century
When Nannerl was a young girl, there were very few female musicians who traveled and performed the way she did.
When she visits her brother in Augberg, Wolfie encourages her to leave home and join him on his tours. He tells her, “Women are writing music now.” Because Wolfie was traveling and working as a composer, he would have heard of, and even met, some of these women.
The music in Europe at the time was what we would now call “classical.” Like Nannerl, these women all played keyboard instruments and often violin as well. They composed sonatas, chamber music and operas.
Listed below are some women composers from the late-1700s whose music survived. Many of these women were born into musical families and had brothers or fathers who encouraged their talent. Most of them wrote when Nannerl would have been in her 20’s.
Anne Louide Brillon de Houy (1744-1824)
Marianna Martines (1744-1812)
Maddalena Laura Sirmen (1745-1818)
Marie Emmanuelle Bayon Louis (1745-1825)
Madame Ravissa (approx. 1750-1807)
Henrietta Adelaide Villard (1748-1813)
Gertrud Elisabeth Mara (1749-1833)
Polly Young (1749-1799)
Elizabeth Joanetta Catherine von Hagen (1750-1809)
Corona Elisabth Wilhelmine Schroter (1751-1802)
Juliane Reichardt (1752-1783)
It is likely there were other women composers during this time. So why don’t we know about them? The men who were dominant in the profession (musicians, and conductors for example) may not have valued their work or have believed it was appropriate for women to perform in public.
Many men did not believe women were capable of being artists. These kinds of beliefs were common throughout education, culture, science, politics and literature for centuries.