Peggy Seeger: A Feminist View of the Image of Women in Traditional Anglo-American Songs
Hosted by Barbara and Graham Dean
PLEASE NOTE CHANGE OF VENUE, DUE TO SNOW CONDITIONS:  Hevreh of Southern Berkshire270 State Road Gt. Barrington. 4 p.m.

$10 cover at the door benefits the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and WBCR-LP

In this interactive lecture with song, acclaimed folksinger Peggy Seeger explores the image and roles of women in traditional Anglo-American songs dating from the 1600s onward. In the first half, Peggy sings and talks about folk music and its role in conditioning us to accept and pass on the status quo. The traditional songs are descriptive: where gender politics are involved, they tend to crystallize and reinforce gender stereotypes. In the bulk of these songs (both humorous and serious), women are seen as property, as victims, as nags, as scolds, as schemers, and as traps laid for helpless men: they are subjected to incest, physical abuse and coercion at every level. In a minority of traditional pieces, women are seen as individuals of courage, stamina, tenderness, loyalty and inventiveness. In the second half, Peggy introduces contemporary songs about women, by both men and women. These songs are prescriptive: they not only cover the myriad of subjects left untended in the traditional pieces but they also challenge the stereotypes and offer various means of solving the contemporary gender bind.


Peggy Seeger. Photo by Dale Hubert.

Peggy Seeger was born in 1935 in New York City. Her mother, Ruth Crawford, was a composer and piano teacher; her father, Charles Seeger, was an ethnomusicologist and music administrator. Peggy’s formal music education was interwoven with the family’s interest in folk music. She began to play the piano at seven years old, and between the ages of 12 and 35 she learned to play guitar, five-string banjo, autoharp, Appalachian dulcimer and English concertina. She majored in music at Radcliffe College and began singing folksongs professionally. After graduating, she traveled around the world singing for several years, before settling in 1959 in London with Ewan MacColl, the British dramatist-singer-songmaker, with whom she had three children (Neill, Calum and Kitty). Seeger and MacColl formed their own record company (Blackthorne Records), and Peggy founded and edited a magazine of new songs (The New City Songster, 1965-1985). They gave concerts and workshops throughout Europe and the New World, occasionally with Neill and Calum, both excellent musicians in their own right. Peggy has made 22 solo discs and has taken part in more than 100 recordings with other performers. She is considered to be among North America’s finest female folksingers and took a leading role in the British folk music revival, known especially for her songs on nuclear and feminist issues.