B.A. in Music Senior Capstone Projects

Document Type

Capstone Project

Presentation Date

Fall 2011


Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Lou Williams are two names that are firmly associated with the jazz idiom. This paper details the lives of these two women and their struggles with both race and gender throughout their careers. As the women moved through the jazz scene, they experienced prejudice not just for their race, but for their gender as well. In this paper I show the way the women addressed these issues and how they subverted the tensions, most likely subconsciously without their knowledge. When I first began the research project I expected to find an inextricable link between the jazz idiom and feminism. However, as I delved further into the topic I found that there was not one completely construed, and so had to begin from scratch to elevate the feminist conversation in terms of jazz and music. After my research I have firmly established that Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Lou Williams serve as exemplary role models for any woman in a jazz or music career. Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Lou Williams accomplished on their own what the women’s movements of their time sought to accomplish.


Feminist movement, jazz

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
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