Warrior Women in Anglo-American History and Song

dugaw-talkEach year, when members of the Texas Boys’ Choir dress in Revolutionary costume to celebrate the Continental soldier of yore, they strike up a song about one such soldier—a woman named Deborah Sampson,who fought in George Washington’s army for three years and was awarded a pension by one of the first acts of the U.S. Congress. Deborah Sampson is just one example of the high-mettled heroine of popular ballads who masquerades as a man and ventures to war for love and glory. Songs celebrating such women flourished as “hits” for more than 200 years, reaching their zenith in the 18th century. The ballads are still alive today, embedded in the folksong traditions of America and Britain. This presentation introduces audiences to the courageous heroines of ballads and history—Hannah Snell in 18th-century England, Deborah Sampson in Revolutionary America, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman in the American Civil War—as well as the folk songs that celebrate their valor and deeds. We’ll listen to ten ballads from the 120 songs I have collected, in varied contexts and musical styles from Elizabethan to present-day cowboy songs. We also will discuss aspects of national history and politics illustrated by the songs, the cultural forms that shape heroism and women, and the popular music traditions of ordinary people.

Presenter Profile: Dianne Dugaw, Professor, English

dugawRaised on a small ranch in the rural Pacific Northwest, Dianne Dugaw began her career as a folksinger. In the 1970s, she traveled to the Ozark Mountain region of Arkansas and Oklahoma to collect traditional songs, hymns, and tunes. After earning a B.A. in English at the University of Portland, Dianne went on to earn a master’s degree in English from the University of Colorado. She then studied literature, music, drama, and folklore at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and received her Ph.D. in English. For the past 15 years, she has taught in the Department of English and the Folklore Program at the University of Oregon. Dianne has published three books on topics in literary history and folklore and, in 2002, she recorded a CD entitled “Dangerous Examples—Fighting and Sailing Women in Song.” On the CD, she sings an array of Anglo-American ballads about women soldiers and sailors reaching from Shakespeare’s time to our own era. She has written numerous articles on literature, folklore, popular culture, and women’s studies, which have appeared in national and international journals. She continues to play music and sing in the Eugene area.