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Women Composers: Getting Started

This research guide suggests resources that may be useful in researching the lives and works of women classical composers.

Here are some music resources available through the Duke Libraries that may help you find biographies, recordings, and printed works of specific composers. The good news is that they're all available either online or via Duke's Library Takeout Service.

General Music Resources

Here are some online music databases and general resources that can be helpful as you start your research.

Oxford Music Online, which requires Duke login credentials, includes several valuable online music references, including Grove Music Online, the Oxford Dictionary of Music, and the Oxford Companion to Music

Wikipedia can also be a good screening tool, too:  it can be useful either for browsing or for initial research into a specific composer.  

General Resources on Women Composers

Databases with Recorded and Printed Music

There are several online databases of music recordings and printed and manuscript music that can help you in your research.  Note which ones require Duke log-in credentials.

Alexander Street Press, which requires Duke login credentials, includes many recordings that may be of potential interest to researchers of Women composers.  Here, for example, is a short list of search results in the Classical Music section.


The Petrucci Music Library (also known as IMSLP) provides free access to digitized images of myriad printed and manuscript musical works of many composers and genres.

The Naxos music library has a wealth of recordings and resources categorized by genre and ensemble type, themed playlists, essays, and easily searchable collections.

Note:  access to Alexander Street Press and Naxos requires Duke credentials; IMSLP is open-access.

More Subject Headings

If the suggested resources in this guide don't include what you're looking for, remember that the Libraries have a wealth of other resources available. Try some of these subject headings to explore further: