RMA Conference: 'Women and Sea Shanties'

On Saturday 10th September 2022, Mollie Carlyle presented her paper entitled 'Sally Brown and Sailor John: Women and the Shanty Tradition' at the Royal Musical Association annual conference, hosted by Durham University.

‘Sally Brown and Sailor John: Women and the Shanty Tradition’ explores the relationship between women and sea shanties, showing that although shanties are more commonly associated with male singers and male collectors, in reality women equally with men have had a say in the shanty’s repertoire, lyrics, melodies and, in more recent times, performance. The attendees of this RMA conference session were introduced to female collectors of the past who have helped to define the shanty, as well as some of the female performers currently paving the way in shanty singing on the maritime music scene in the present day. Very little research has been undertaken that emphasises the role of female collectors and performers in the history of the shanty, hence this research is intended to redress the balance and demonstrate how women have been instrumental in documenting and preserving the shanties that are still sung today.

Mollie presented her paper as part of a session entitled ‘Gender Representations’ alongside papers on the Georgian prodigy, Martha Greatorex, by Vivian Montgomery from the Longy School of Music of Bard College and ‘Opera as Sexualwissenshaft’ by Laura Biemmi from the University of Western Australia.

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