Women Who Chipped Away at Classical Music's Glass Ceiling

Malin Alsop is the first woman to lead a major orchestra, but these women paved the way

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1583

Tarquinia Molza organizes and conducts a women’s vocal ensemble at the Italian court of Ferrara.

Public Domain

1888

Caroline B. Nichols founds and conducts the Fadette Women’s Orchestra of Boston.
Public domain

1925

Making her American debut, British conductor Ethel Leginska becomes the first woman to conduct at Carnegie Hall. 

APIC

1938

French composer, performer and conductor Nadia Boulanger becomes the first woman to conduct the Boston Symphony.

Keystone/Getty Images

1938

Antonia Brico becomes the first woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic.
Denver Post

1957

Conductor Margaret Hillis founds and directs the Chicago Symphony Chorus.
Jim Bush

1971

Margaret Harris becomes the first African- American woman to conduct the Chicago Symphony.
Courtesy Of The Center For Black Music Research At Columbia

1975

Conductor and opera impresario Sarah Caldwell debuts with the New York Philharmonic and becomes the first woman to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera.

Getty Images

1994

American conductor Anne Manson becomes the first woman to conduct at Vienna’s renowned Salzburg Festival.

Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

1999

JoAnn Falletta becomes music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic.
Courtesy of Chorus America

2005

Marin Alsop is appointed music director of the Baltimore Symphony, making her the first woman to direct a world-class, full-time American orchestra.

To read about Marin's rise to the top, click here.

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Ayrton Vignola/Agencia Estado/Ae Via Ap Images
First published in the October 2013 issue

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