The Boundaries of This Book
The role of patronage in "classical music" (Western art music) is a large, unwieldy phenomenon, subject to the diverse encouraging and hindering pressures of place and time, gender and class, race and religion. In the hope of shaping a coherent book, we (the two editors, speaking for ourselves for the next while, rather than for all contributors to the book) made three early decisions to help delimit this vast subject, all apparent in the book's title and subtitle: (1) it would deal primarily with women rather than men; (2) it would deal (for the most part) with people who volunteered their time, efforts, and funds, rather than with professional musicians, administrators, and the like; and (3) it would focus on the American scene rather than try to deal with several different countries.
The first two of these self-imposed restrictions are closely intertwined and need to be discussed together, at some length. (The restriction to America will be treated afterward.) We chose to focus not just on women but on women patrons (and women volunteers), in large part because we wished to help redress two striking imbalances in the historical record (taken in its widest sense to include newspaper accounts and the like). The first imbalance derives from the professional/amateur dichotomy that structures cultural and artistic life in the modern age. Certain of the professional musicians and impresarios who, in the course of their (sometimes well-paid) careers, built or sustained the nation's leading musical institutions have had their story told, or have told it themselves, admittedly in versions that are often highly selective or one-sided. (The list includes, among others, Theodore Thomas, Oscar Hammerstein I [father of the Broadway lyricist], the Damrosch dynasty, Olga Samaroff, Arthur Judson, Sol Hurok, Rudolph Bing, Sarah Caldwell, and Gian Carlo Menotti.) We have, though, encouraged the authors to blur the line between the amateur and what we might call the "low-status professional"—for example, the high-school music teacher or community choral director—if that might prove helpful (especially in Chapter 7). Certain of the authors also problematize the very dichotomy between the two terms "amateur" and "professional," as in Chapters 9 and 10.
The second imbalance in the historical record that distressed us seems rooted even more explicitly in gender. The story of the male patron, we noted earlier, has often been told to the exclusion of that of his female equivalent. As with the professional musicians just mentioned, this does not mean that all has been said. Male patrons clearly deserve further study: surely there were complex gender implications in a man's involving himself—especially not for pay—in a cultural activity then regarded as highly feminine. The present book may help point in that direction by evoking at times, mainly for comparison or contrast, the work of Higginson and other male activists in music, and by giving at least glancing attention to a few supportive husbands. These include Henry Drinker, who was himself—as appears in Chapter 9 and Vignette J—a capable and scholarly musician unrestrainedly devoted to cultivating performance in the home. (On the interchapter vignettes, generally, see the section below on our book's structure.) Indeed, we might note that the social history of the arts provides striking support for the recent contention of Joan Wallach Scott and others that simple claims of male and female "cultures" or "spheres of activity" must give way to more complex explorations of gender as the site of ongoing contestation and resistance.
This book, in short, aims to take women patrons seriously both as women and as patrons. In order to give the book some chance at depth, we (the editors) added a third restriction, as noted above: it would deal only with women patrons in the United States . Patrons who were active in other countries are therefore not discussed, not even the remarkably influential one whom David Schiff mentions in the passage quoted earlier: Princess Edmond de Polignac, née Winaretta Singer, who, although heir to the Singer sewing-machine fortune, was raised in Paris and
functioned as patron almost entirely in that city. But Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Betty Freeman, both of whom Schiff mentions, are treated here (in their own words even), as are many other influential and distinctive American patrons, including Isabella Stewart Gardner, Jeannette Thurber, Harriet Gibbs Marshall, Sophie Drinker, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and Clare Reis. Some are portrayed in detail; others are discussed or quoted more briefly as instances of larger trends. But each amply deserves the scholarly attention that she receives here.
Still others, we should stress, could easily have been included, such as Eleanor Robson (Mrs. August) Belmont, who founded the Metropolitan Opera Guild, Elise Boyer Hall (of Boston), who commissioned works for saxophone from Debussy and others, the Nebraska-born Gertrude Clark Whittall, who contributed five Stradivarius instruments to the Library of Congress and endowed the concert series in which they have been used ever since, Mary Louise Curtis Bok (who founded the Curtis Institute), Ima Hogg (who spearheaded the founding of the Houston Symphony and served as president of the board of trustees for twelve years), Marjorie Merriweather Post (who gave more than a million dollars to the National Symphony in Washington, D.C.), Louise M. Davies (who gave $5 million toward the construction of the hall the San Francisco Symphony plays in and another $3 million to the orchestra's endowment fund), Catherine Filene Shouse (the founder of the Wolf Trap national park and summer festival), Alice Tully (of New York), or the less well-known women in cities across the country (e.g., Minneapolis) whose work is only now being uncovered. And another book entirely could be devoted to the women who did much to foster ballet and modern dance in the United States, whether through direct creative involvement (notably as choreographers and leading dancers), public lecturing, financial contributions (or personal and financial sacrifices), organizational work, or some combination of these. There is a major musical component to the story of dance in the United States: companies such as Martha Graham's, Laura Dean's, and Ballet Theatre (directed by Lucia Chase) have provided a base of operations and source of commissions for American composers (whether native or foreign-born) in the early stages of their careers, such as Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Gian Carlo Menotti, Halim El-Dabh, and, more recently, Steve Reich.
In deciding whom to include in our book, we were, to some extent, drawn to women for whom documentary evidence was plentiful or accessible. But we were also guided by the desire to present as diverse and representative a panorama as possible within the limitations we had set ourselves: Coolidge can to some extent stand for Whittall, despite the striking differences that observers such as Joseph Kerman have noted between their approaches to the support of chamber music. In addition, we felt that the book might reveal more about the problem of women's patronage if it sacrificed comprehensiveness and examined a relatively small number of cases in greater depth. Nonetheless, Chapters 1, 2 and 10, especially, and those documentary "vignettes" that present women not treated in the
chapters proper, may nonetheless help suggest how widespread and energetic the phenomenon of women's patronage in music was and is.