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Jillian Graham

Jillian Graham begins her biography of Margaret Sutherland (1897–1984) with a story that vividly captures two themes that recur throughout the book: Sutherland’s activism, and her sometime exclusion from Australia’s institutional musical life as it developed through her lifetime.

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According to the summary on the inside of Women of Note’sattractive jacket, being a female composer in the twentieth century was a ‘dangerous game’ – strong words indeed, but not without justification. Rosalind Appleby notes her own initial surprise to discover how many women composers there actually were in Australia. My own experience while writing a PhD about four Australian composing mothers is consistent with this perception. I have lost count of the number of times I described my topic to polite questioners and, on explaining that it was about Australian women composers, was asked, ‘Are there any?’ Well, yes – in 2011 the Australian Music Centre recorded that twenty-five per cent of Australian composers are women.

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