A Retrospective on the Evolution of Women's Music Festivals


From the 2014 Burger a-Go-Go Music Festival

Music festivals have a hallowed place in the annals of Women’s Liberation. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; women’s liberationists understood how interrelated culture and politics are, how what possibilities we can imagine and rights we can claim are connected to the stories we tell and the images we see.

In the 1970s, marginality, lack of air-play and limited access to major labels caused feminist singer-songwriters like Cris Williamson and Meg Christian to release records through feminist labels, notably the 1973 Olivia Records (created by former members of the D.C.-based Furies Collective). Numerous music festivals popped up all over the country, like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, enabling artists to connect directly with fans by creating dynamic sites for community building, liberation, and political activism.  Women’s music festivals continue to emerge, including the Lilith Fair in the 1990s and the recent incarnation of Burger Records’ “Burger a-Go-Go” that launched in 2014.

Women’s music festivals grew out of a larger cultural rebellion, marked by Woodstock and rock music.  And that anarchic spirit inspired many women in the punk scene—an environment not exclusively for women but creating an alternative to conventional life that was particularly nurturing to women. Deborah Harry, Joan Jett, Patti Smith, and many more broke conventions of traditional beauty and feminine behavior as they jammed at CBGB and other sketchy downtown venues.  The riot grrrl movement and punk bands Slaeter-Kinney, The Donnas, and L7 have all continued this tradition.

Sarahfest emerged from a brainstorming session of an Isom Center student group in the early 2000s.  With the help of former director Deborah Barker, Kirsten Dellinger, and Annette Trefzer, these students organized a benefit concert at Two Stick and featured door prizes from local businesses.


Gender, War, and Memory in the Anglo-American World Conference hosted by UM this fall

From October 1-3, the Center for Civil War Research and the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History in conjunction with WAR-Net, with its co-sponsors the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies and the Department of English, will host an international conference on “Gender, War, and Memory in the Anglo-American World.”

women-in-wwii-snapshot3WAR-Net is an interdisciplinary network of scholars working on war representation, which was founded in Britain in 2010, and this will be the first conference that WAR-Net has sponsored outside of the United Kingdom. One of the major aims of the conference is to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the U. S. Civil War, the 100th anniversary of the First World War, and 75th anniversary of the Second World War, especially the Blitz, by bringing together scholars of gender, memory, and war on both sides of the Atlantic. Panels include historians, art historians, literary and cinema critics and feature the work of PhD students as well as established professors from both the UK and across the US to address such themes as masculinity and war memory, and gender, race and wartime culture.

The conference will feature three keynote panels with leading scholars of these conflicts that highlight gender and memory in light of each particular war, starting with the session on the US Civil War with Professors Anne Sarah Rubin (University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and author of Through the Heart of Dixie: Sherman’s March and American Memory) and Susan-Mary Grant (Newcastle University (UK), and noted author of The War for a Nation: the American Civil War ) on Thursday Oct. 1 at 4:30.


Fall Newsletter is now available!

Click the image to open our newsletter.Fall 2015 Isom Report - Printer


Isom Center News Archives