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Women at an Exposition

“We are here to celebrate the 400 year anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. But we are really here to celebrate the U.S. government’s discovery of woman.”

Bertha Palmer, Director of the Woman’s Building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition


The CD “Women at an Exposition ,” created by Artistic Circles and Ann Feldman highlights songs, piano, and chamber music composed by women and performed in the Woman’s Building at the 1893 Columbian Exposition. “Women at an Exposition” grew out of the investigation of the role women played at the Exposition. In 1992, Artistic Circles and Ann Feldman produced a musical play entitled “Politics and Old Lace,” which looked behind the scenes as Bertha Palmer, Susan B. Anthony and Ida B. Wells struggled to have women fairly represented at the Exposition.

Program Highlights

Extensive original research by Julia W. Kramer and Dr. Feldman resulted in: the first compilation of music by women collected for and performed at the Columbian Exposition; discovery of previously unknown articles by Bertha Palmer and Susan B. Anthony for the Exposition.

Politics and Old Lace“, a play commissioned by Artistic Circles and Ann Feldman, and performed at the University of Chicago

Conference on “Women’s Leadership at the 1893 World’s Fair” held at Newberry Library, which included scholars from throughout the U.S.

Politics and Old Lace” public radio documentary, syndicated by WFMT Radio Network

Artistic Circles‘ Ann Feldman wrote a chapter for a book on the Exposition titled World’s Fair Notes.

CD “Women at an Exposition“, (Koch Int’l., 1993) premieres Susanne Mentzer’s first chamber music recording on compact disc.

Press and Publications

“Despite the intrusion of gender aesthetics into reviews of these works, women composers benefited from being represented at the Exposition. The performance of their works on a world stage confirmed their legitimacy as composers and led to performances of their compositions by the Chicago and Boston orchestras. Their patrons, also women, were confirmed in their support by hearing these compositions. And, women’s patronage at the Exposition would become a model for further philanthropy on behalf of women’s music.”

Ann E. Feldman, director, Artistic Circles

Being Heard: Women Composers and Patrons at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, from Notes, Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Vol. 47, No.1, September 1990, Oxford University Press.

“The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition attracted over 27 million visitors primarily through print media…While newspaper women were reporting on the Fair in general and receiving official status at this major international event, their columns reflect a strong interest in women leaders and women’s activities at the exposition. Bertha Palmer, Susan B. Anthony, and Ida B. Wells were savvy to the power of the press, and their causes received repeated coverage in general newspapers as well as in women’s journals. Presswomen, women leaders and readers alike understood that for those who could not come to the Fair, or who could not stay the entire six months, the newspapers and magazines were their window on the Fair.

Ann E. Feldman, director, Artistic Circles

Women and the Press at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, World’s Fair Notes: A Woman Journalist Views Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition, Marian Shaw, 1992, the Pogo Press, Inc.