Friday, April 23, 2010

In History: Ethel Smyth

This is the 22nd post in a weekly feature here at Spare Candy, called "In History." Some posts might be little more than a photo, others full on features. If you have any suggestions for a person or event that should be featured, or would like to submit a guest post or cross post, e-mail me at rosiered23 (at) sparecandy (dot) com. 

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth was born on this date, April 23, in 1858. She was a composer and a suffragette, and I believe it's worth noting she was a lesbian. Smyth, born in England, was part of the Women's Social and Political Union, and spent two months in jail after joining more than 100 women in breaking the windows of politicians' offices. Smyth also composed "The March of the Women," which became an anthem of sorts for the suffragist movement. When Thomas Beecham went to visit Smyth in prison, he reported that "I arrived at the prison and found that noble group of martyrs, as they then marched up and down in your heart and with their war song 'March of the Women' sang, while the composer was watching benevolently from a high window and with the bacchanalian energy tact with a toothbrush beat." My understanding is she was leaning out a prison window, conducting a group of women protesting in front of the prison, using a toothbrush as her baton. (Is that not a fantastic visual image?) Her work is still available for purchase today. Her autobiography, "Impressions That Remained - Memoirs Of Ethel Smyth" is said to be one great. (I haven't read it, but I'm intrigued.)

If you'd like to hear "The March of the Women," here's a video (well, photo slideshow) set to the Rainbow Chorus singing it in 2009.

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