Location, Space, and Women In Jazz


The emergence of feminism in the early 20th century, largely excelled the media and conversation about women in society. Women fought for the right to vote and to make themselves equals in a patriarchal society. They demanded to be heard through the lense of the government, and this political change largely affected other aspects of women's lives as well. Feminism was an essential movement; however, it largely marginalized black women. Much of early feminist philosophy was white- centered, and most feminist philosophers were white (Playing it like a Man). Many feminist groups were largely dominated by white females, and many black females did not have a feminist group to affiliate with. A disconnect, not a unity, slowly began to form between white and black women in the political sense. While white women had a voice beyond their own, many black women had to establish themselves on their own, “ Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Lou Williams lacked the benefit of the voice of a community, they were left on their own to develop as women without the aid of an organized women’s movement” (Playing it like a Man). For those black women who were successful and had the talent, race became less of an issue. Ella Fitzgerald, “ had a voice and the music ability that essentially moved her from a place of destitution to a place of privilege in a man’s world. She empowered herself by her own musical talent” ( Playing it  Like a Man). Many times when black women did have the raw natural ability they were not given the same opportunities as white women. Chick Webb would was initially extremely unwilling to hire Ella simply  because of her physical appearance (Playing it Like a Man). For many producers physical appearance and not talent dictated who they would hire. Jazz became a commodity, in some sense, and the goal was to sell albums and many believed that if a white woman was on the cover and not a black, they would make more money.

Politically, there was a separation; however, due to the nature of Jazz there was a stronger essence of a “sister hood” that was blind to race. This was essential to the progress of women in both the Jazz and political field, “ sisterhood hood is integral to the success of the women's movement because it successfully binds people of like minds and allows for common interests to be heard” (Playing it Like a Man). Music and the emotions of Jazz provoked, brought together these women regardless of race. Yes race was a constant struggle for black women in the field , but more often than not, both black and white women commented on how gender segregation, in a largely male dominated society, was their greatest career barriers.