Entertaining a New Republic: music and the women of Washington, 1800-1825

Giles, Leah
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University of Delaware
This thesis explores the role of women and music in the elite entertaining circles of Washington, DC, from 1800 to 1825. During this period, women used entertaining, and especially music, as a means of advancing a variety of personal, social, and political objectives. Campaigns, courtships, and even statecraft were conducted in parlor settings, and the success of these endeavors depended in large measure on women's ability to create a convivial environment through music. Wealthy Washington families spent exorbitant sums on instruments and music education for their daughters, recognizing that a woman's talents as a genteel entertainer would contribute to the success and happiness of her future family. Combining social history, material culture, and musicology, this study considers its topic from multiple scholarly vantage points. Special attention is given to the creation and maintenance of domestic musical spaces; the entertaining styles of the era's first ladies; the role of music in the private and public lives of elite women; contemporary popular music and musical print culture; and the preferred instruments for women in the period, pianofortes and harps.