Abstract

New York by 1850 was the leading U.S. city in population, trade, industry, and culture. Its many public musical offerings took place in the evenings, requiring women to have escorts for safety and respectability, and limiting their attendance opportunities. Beginning in 1847 with the New York Philharmonic's opening of daytime rehearsals to women, matinee performances gradually proliferated, extending women's access to opera, concert, and musical theater and transforming audiences from male to mainly female by century's end. The process increased women's access to public spaces for music, changed theaters from male clubs to women-friendly venues, and furthered the education of women as amateur musicians and of those newly empowered to become professionals. Freedom to attend musical events became part of the growing consumer culture, which also brought women out of the home. These profound changes took place in the context of the first American women's movement, 1848––1920. While of far less significance than the vote or control of their own resources, matinees brought women out of domestic confinement to freer access to the public life of the city. That in turn encouraged women to imagine, and some to achieve, public lives.

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