Common Woman Chorus—Online Resources for Women's Choruses
Writer and feminist activist Sallie Bingham notes that "so much of what we do as women depends on finding a place where we feel at home." Durham, NC's LADYSLIPPER MUSIC (b. 1976) provided an early musical home for women's voices and was practically the sole source for women's music for many decades. This music gave our voices a place in a culture in which we were largely invisible and, in the process, helped inspire a national choral movement.
Today, hundreds of women's choruses perform powerful music highlighting the diversity and strength of women's lives and experiences. Choral arrangements showcase historical, political, and cultural events and experiences relevant to our lives; memorialize our heroes; increase awareness of women's lives, struggles, and cultural contributions; and advocate for positive change in attitudes toward women and our values.
SISTER SINGERS NETWORK provides an international home for women's choruses, helps us locate and disseminate woman-positive music, and hosts choral festivals where we perform and celebrate women's choral music. The International Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA) also supports gay- and lesbian-identified choruses as we change our world through song.
The reality that women's voices were often missing from most of our libraries and archives led Sallie Bingham to provide the funds and inspiration necessary for the creation of Duke University's Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture, where the Common Woman Chorus's papers are permanently archived. This vast collection offers a treasure trove of MUSIC AND MUSICIANS OF THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENT, 1960S-PRESENT as well as numerous other collections focused on women's lives and contributions. Examples of other collections archived there are the records (paper files, visual materials, and music) of Ladyslipper Music and the papers of Minnie Bruce Pratt and Dorothy Allison.
The Chicago Women's Liberation Union's WOMEN'S LIBERATION TIMELINE provides historical context for why so many women were inspired to form choruses, collectives, and organizations that make our voices heard. Likewise, Ladyslipper's WOMEN'S MUSIC HERSTORY INTERVIEWS provide first-hand accounts of singers' perspectives on their work to give voice to our lives.
Before the Web became a widespread communication tool, Triangle women relied upon the heavily stapled NEWSLETTER (of which the Sallie Bingham Center holds a complete run) to learn about local feminist and lesbian events. These days, we rely on listservs and social networks such as TRIANGLEGRRLS to get the word out. Contact this organization to find your own home among the more than 1,200 active members.