Late in 2017 I started writing songs for a set of songs inspired by women in US history. The current state of our country caused me to look into US history, partly as an escape from the present, partly to find some inspiring women in our past. I found a lot of them! Some of them are famous, like Helen Keller, Josephine Baker, and Amelia Earhart, and some are lesser known but equally inspiring, like Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Lucy Goldthorpe.
People started hearing about my history project and sent me more suggestions. There’s no way I can write songs about all of the fascinating women (and men) who have been suggested, but researching them and seeing who sparks my creative fire has been a blast. Here’s the list.
Here are all of the women who inspired the songs on 13 Women:
Amelia Earhart What a Woman Can Do Julia Morgan Castles
Edmonia Lewis Wave That Rocks Me Helen Keller Just Give Me Everything
Sarah Wildes Spell Henrietta Lacks You Healed Me
Lucy Goldthorpe Open Prairie Peace Pilgrim Walk This Freedom
Josephine Baker A Little More From Josephine Maud Stevens Wagner Under Your Skin
Martha Gellhorn Witness Henrietta Swan Leavitt My Life in the Stars
Rosie the Riveter Girl You Never Knew
I realize it's fairly presumptuous to muse and write about the thoughts of these women. Here are my thoughts on that.
I found some of these women through my own research, but several of the women who inhabit these songs were suggested to me by friends and family members I've listed here.
April 2020: like everyone else I'm at home, and we've been slowly mixing the album. I hope by the time it's released that we all will be healthy and free to move again.
January 2020: Jim Hoke played some beautiful clarinet and flute on three songs, the final tracking we need. Now it's mix mix mix.
December 2019: we've started mixing some of the songs, and are adding some last vocals and reeds to several others. Phoebe Elliot and Kyshona Armstrong were in last week, Karen Leipziger and Shelley HIggins come in soon for some final vocals.
October 2019: Mary Rodgers played accordion and Maggie Chafee played cello on two songs each. Tom and I sorted out a lot of the harmony parts.
August/September 2019: Phoebe Elliot, Barb Santoro, Ingrid Graudins, and Cathy Silverstein added backing vocals.
July 2019: We're making progress on the album, slow but sure. Renee Hayes moved in for a week and added a bunch of backing vocals. Just after July 4th four more friends came in to add more vocals. I forgot that when you put two or more friends in the booth to sing together that too much laughter ensues, but we managed to get some good vocals down for my songs inspired by Henrietta Lacks and Amelia Earhart.
Feb 2019: I'm still in the early stages of recording, but my friend Nancy Terzian at Buckinghorse Design zoomed ahead and did the wondrous cover at the top of this page.
Live: Two Songs from 13 Women
Me singing Just Give Me Everything with Renee Hayes and Tom Manche. Renee co-wrote another song on this project inspired by Edmonia Lewis, A Wave That Rocks Me.
I played a couple of the songs from Thirteen Women at a show in Nashville last summer: Spell was inspired by Sarah Wildes, who lived in the seventeenth century. Read about her here. Below that is a duo version of Just Give Me Everything.