Series: Ladies Bands

The early town band movement of the 19th-century grew out of the Civil War tradition of military bands. Consequently, the early town bands - like the military itself - were regarded as bastions of men only. However, a "guys-night-out club" might be a more apt description for many of these bands. Men were reluctant to admit women (or children) to their bands because the nature of their socializing would have to be constrained. A message on the back of a postcard that depicts the five men of the Alburnett band says it all: "...this is all what is left of our bunch, so we had a picnic and had a practice with a good dinner and a keg to boot..."

Ultimately, Ladies (only) Bands were formed to satisfy women's desire to play in a band. (The director, however, was almost always a man.) While Ladies Bands were not nearly as numerous as the men's bands, they were probably more common than the few images in this series would suggest. Photographs and postcards of ladies bands are highly collectible, so one must be prepared to bid way up to win these images in an on-line auction.

Occasionally, a lone female was able to break into the boys' club, such as the horn player in the long skirt at the center of the Waverly Booster Band photo. Additionally, some women gained entry into the band as the band's vocalist, such as was likely the role of Elfrieda Mighell who is pictured standing in the middle of the Holstein Community Band. The first significant mixing of genders appears to have taken place in the bands and orchestras that began to emerge in the public schools in the 1910s. By the 1920s, town bands that admitted both men and women were fairly common.

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