International Women’s Day

(Cross-posted from Josh’s blog.)

In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s a post about women who play old-time music. There’s a perception that old-time is a genre mainly for and by old white men. I’ll grant that the old-time scenes I’m aware of are awfully white, but a lot of musicians I respect are women. Here are some of them, with the only selection criteria being that they’re living and they’re the ones I thought of during my commute this morning:

Alice Gerrard

Anna Roberts-Gevalt

Aoife O’Donovan

Betse Ellis

Brittany Haas

Brittany NewellHanna TraynhamKate Lichtenstein, & Katy Harris: The Barn Owls



Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer

Cayley Schmid

Charmaine Slaven

Elizabeth LaPrelle

Anna and Elizabeth

Emily Schaad

Erynn Marshall

Gabrielle Macrae

Gabrielle Macrae, Joanna Macrae, & Marian Macrae Herrmann: The Macrae Sisters

Grace Forrest

Jane Rothfield

Judy Hyman

Kaia Kater

Mary Z Cox

Maya Whitmont

I can’t find any videos of Maya playing, but she’s a fine musician in addition to being the archivist of the Canotes’ string band class.

Rachel Eddy

Rayna Gellert

Rhiannon Giddens

Sandy Bradley

Sandy Bradley was a real presence for me, growing up in Seattle in the ’80s and ’90s. She was a big part of Seattle’s square dance revival in the 70s, and her “Potluck” variety show on the radio informed a lot of my musical tastes (and I hear a lot of the Canotes, who were the house band, in my playing now). My first fiddle and bass were bought at the instrument auction she ran at Folklife. She dropped out of the scene around the late 90s, and recordings are hard to find now. Finding a used copy of Hollow Rock Legacy is probably your best bet. Here’s the first part of a more recent three part interview with her:

Sarah Comer

Sarah Jarosz

Sara Watkins

Tashina Clarridge

Tatiana Hargreaves

Tricia Spencer

Vivian Williams

Zoe Darrow

Bonus videos:



3 comments on “International Women’s Day
  1. Dave Kreimer says:

    A great collection of tunes Josh. Spent an hour listening instead of practicing… but enjoyed it!

  2. Matt McConeghy says:

    As you know, very few women fiddlers in the historic record. One such was Viola Ruth of Arizona, a contemporary of Eck Roberts, John Salyer, etc. A contest and dance fiddler raised in rural Arizona, she became a nationally recognized expert on square dance tunes and in 1948 published a tunebook of trad tunes she had collected since childhood. I posted a brief biography, video and link to her tunebook on the Facebook page “Old Time String Band Jam Tunes” Email me for more info.

  3. Margie Joy says:

    This is lovely. A friend turned me onto this. I haven’t ever been to slower than dirt–hopefully I can make it sometime. Such a great job on this!

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