Discussion of women's biography in theory class
This coming term I'll be discussing many composers for the first time in video lectures (ugh), composers such as Valerie Coleman, Chiquinha Gonzaga, Betty Jackson King, and others. Since I anticipate students won't know these composers, I've been writing brief biographical sketches—I want students to see photographs or paintings of these women (and also of the composers of color) and I want them to think of composers as people. But the sketches of women invariably include details I wouldn't include in introducing men—details of their private lives, e.g., who they married, the age and social status of their husbands, the number of children they did or didn't have, etc. These details are often necessary to contextualize their compositional output (since their husbands may have disdained public performance and teaching but supported publishing) and the genres in which they wrote, but it also gives a clear signal that they differ from the men. On the third hand, I does seem valuable to highlight that marraige and family had (and have) a far greater impact on women's careers than men. I know this issue is perennial but I thought I'd raise it again. Would you advise including details of marraiges and childbearing in discussions of women composers?
Thanks so much,
University of Denver