On Monday we celebrated the music of Janet Danielson in the second sold-out concert of our series, which was dedicated to Women’s History Month. It’s a little hard to believe, but women did not gain the right to vote in Canada until 1916, when Manitoba became the first province to extend universal suffrage. Quebec was last, finally acknowledging women’s right to vote in 1940.
The first class to graduate from UBC Law School in 1948 contained just one woman (lower right in class photograph above). I believe she was Jean Russell, someone I was lucky enough to know. Jean Rusell was tough as nails and had a wonderfully gruff sense of humour. She went on to found Russel & DuMoulin, now Fasken’s, the largest law firm in Canada. She and her life-long friend Ursula Malkin devoted much of their fortunes and their lives to supporting music and music education in Vancouver. Their wonderful home was always full of children taking Kiwanis exams or rehearsing or giving recitals.
It wasn’t until 1971 that the first woman became a judge in BC. First appointed to the Provincial Court, Justice Patricia M. Proudfoot went on to join the BC Supreme Court in 1977 and was awarded the Order of BC in 2007. But the first woman musician wasn’t accepted into the Berin Philharmonic until 1982. In the Vienna Philharmonic, it wasn’t until 1997!
More amazingly, it was only in 2007, barely ten years ago, that Marin Alsop became the first woman to lead a major symphony orchestra when she was appointed Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Which makes it all the more remarkable that the very first faculty member Harry Adaskin hired in 1947 for the newly created music department at UBC was Jean Coulthard. And even more extraordinary that he went on to hire Barbara Pentland a year later.
Barbara Pentland, Jean Coulthard, Violet Archer, Sylvia Rickard, Jean Ethridge, Leslie Uyeda, Hildegard Westerkamp, Alexina Louie, Janet Danielson …
These are some of the magnificent women composers we are celebrating this October as we observe Women’s History Month.