From: Women's Voices
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944) overcame the constraints of her middle-class English background by open rebellion. Taught piano and theory as ladylike accomplishments, she became so concentrated in her studies that her family deemed them unsuitably intense, and stopped her lessons. The teenaged Ethel went on a protracted and progressively more severe strike, finally confining herself to her room and refusing to attend meals, church, or social functions unless her father would send her to Leipzig to study composition.
After two years the embattled Mr. Smyth gave in, and Ethel went to Leipzig, where her larger-than-life personality found an aesthetic outlet in the development of a Brahmsian idiom. She gained some recognition in England with the performance of her Mass in D for chorus and orchestra in 1893, and struggled to get her operas performed.
A woman of boisterous
fell prey to inconvenient passions for persons of both sexes, Smyth was
affectionately caricatured in E.F. Benson"s Dodo novels and mocked by
Virginia Woolf. In 1910, Smyth met Emmaline Pankhurst, the founder of
British women's suffrage movement and head of the militant and
well organized Women's Social and Political Union. Struck by Mrs.
mesmerizing public speeches, Smyth pledged to give up music for two
and devote herself to the cause of votes for women.
1916, Royal Society of Portrait Painters, hosted at the Grafton Galleries, London. Opened June, 1916.
"A series of letters from
to Violet Paget ("Vernon Lee") is at
College, in Waterville, Maine. There ought to be Smyth material in the
Houghton Library at Harvard and the Humanities Research Center,
of Texas, since these hold extensive papers of her friend Maurice