National Women's Music Festival
|National Women's Music Festival|
|Dates||First weekend in July|
|Location(s)||Middleton, Wisconsin, United States|
|Founded by||Kristin Lems|
|Attendance||5,000 as of 1991|
The National Women's Music Festival (NWMF) is an American women's music festival held yearly various Midwestern states since 1974. It is the first and longest running festival of it's kind.
The festival has been held on various college campuses in the Midwest, including the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Illinois; Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana; Ball State in Muncie, Indiana; Kent State in Kent, Ohio; Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio; and Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. It has been held at the Marriott Madison West Hotel and Conference Center in Madison, Wisconsin since 2009.
Founding and early years
In 1973, Kristin Lems began attending graduate school at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. That year, she wrote Women Walk More Determined and asked to play it at the local Red Herring Folk Festival, but she was denied. Because they had refused her and the festival had never featured any female performers, she organized a one-day "Womanfolk Festival" to highlight female folk musicians. It was successful and as a result, she and the other organizers decided to create a larger scale women's folk festival the following year. The first National Women's Music Festival was held from May 28 to June 2, 1974 and there were 300-350 attendees. Lems, with a group of other female students, planned a six day festival that would feature concerts, open mics, workshops, and art shows. Well-known musicians such as Janis Ian, Roberta Flack, and Yoko Ono were set to play the festival, but they didn't show up due to an issue with the festival's promoter. The organizers had to find other performers at short notice.
The second festival was held from June 10 to June 15, 1975. In addition to concerts and workshops, there were consciousness-raising groups and film screenings. During the third festival, there was a controversy over feminist separatism.The organizers disagreed over whether or not the festival should be for women only, but some performers kicked out or tried to prevent men from entering concerts or workshops. The University of Illinois threatened to close the festival due to Title IX violations for excluding men from the event. There were 2,000 attendees in 1976. The fourth festival was held from June 28-July 3 in 1977. It featured Maxine Feldman, Lucha, Jane Sapp, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Anne Romaine, Hazel Dickens, Margie Adam, Willie Tyson, Alive!, Hysteria, Malvina Reynolds, Judy Eron, Patty Hall, and Kay Gardner. Be Be K'Roche played their last concert at the 1977 festival. There were workshops on "Black Women and Social Change," "Political Songs of the South," and "Racism in the Women's Music Movement." For the first time, all of the workshops and concerts were open to men as a result of the controversy during the third festival. Many women who wanted women-only workshops and concerts didn't attend in 1977, but the organizers encouraged them to begin their own festivals. In 1978, the NWMF was held at the Champaign-Urbana campus and featured Margie Adam, Be Be K'Roche, Meg Christian, Ginni Clemens, Kay Gardner, Holly Near, Malvina Reynolds, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and Cris Williamson. It had workshops on "Violin Repair," "The Production and Politics of Album Covers," "Racism in Women's Music Movement," and "How to Buy P.A. Equipment."
In 1982, after years of struggling for funding and other issues with hosting the NWMF on the Campaign-Urbana campus, the festival moved to the Indiana University Bloomington campus. At this festival, the mayor of Bloomington, Tomi Allison, was presented with a bouquet of flowers. The 1983 festival featured 80 workshops, including the first Music Industry Conference. There was an increased emphasis on making the festival accessible for poor and handicapped women as well as highlighting new/up-and-coming musicians with "Performer Showcases." The ninth festival featured a showcase for classical music composed by women. In 1984, the tenth anniversary of the festival featured guest speakers Ann Bannon and Mary Daly. Performers included Kate Clinton, Sue Fink, Kay Gardner, June Jordan, Adrienne Torf, the Betsy Rose chorus, Susan Freundlich, Dovida and Henia Goodman, Casselberry and Dupree, Holly Near, Beth York, Erika Thorn, Tricia Alexander and Lori Noelle, Toshi Reagon and the Agitones, and Alix Dobkin. There were an estimated 3,100 attendees; 100 men and 3,000 women. Maida Tilchen described the 1984 festival as the "coming of age of women's music."
In 1986, the festival featured Tracy Chapman. In addition to the musical acts, the festival featured spirituality, writers and music industry conferences, as well as workshop series's on older women and classical music.
In 1994, the 20th anniversary of the NWMF was celebrated with a gala banquet and the performance and live recording of Kay Gardner's Ouroboros: Seasons of Life—Women's Passages. In 1995, Rita Mae Brown was the keynote speaker. Janis Ian performed at the festival. At the 1997 festival, the keynote speaker was Judy Chicago and Jane Chambers' play Last Summer at Bluefish Cove was performed. The festival featured Suzanne Westenhoefer, Cris Williamson with Tret Fure, the Three of Hearts with Margie Adam, Tiana Marquez, Barbara Higbie and Liz Story, Saffire, Ubaka Hill, Dos Fallopia, Jamie Andersen, and 2 Funkin' Heavy. There were nearly 250 workshops, several dances, an art exhibit, and a craft market.
The festival moved to Ball State in 1998. Anita Hill, Holly Near, Heather Bishop, Dorothy Allison, Suede, Lucie Blue Tremblay, Catie Curtis, Kate Clinton, and a reunion of Alive!.
2000 to present
The 2001 festival keynote speaker was Sabrina Sojourner. Wicca high priestess Phyllis Curott was the special guest of the workshop series on spirituality. Lou Montgomery performed Kali's Follies: Mid-life at the Millennium and Carolyn Gage performed The Second Coming of Joan of Arc.
In 2003, the NWMF was held at Kent State University and it featured Alix Olson, Tret Fure, Melissa Ferrick, Marga Gomez, Georgia Ragsdale and Lucie Blue Tremblay. In 2006, Margie Adam, Deidre McCalla, Alix Olson, and Tret Fure played the festival. The festival moved to Wisconsin in 2008 because attendees asked for a more hospitality-oriented venue; a hotel or conference center offered more services than the college campuses it had been held on for the previous 33 years. It featured Paprika, Christy Snow, Sonia and the Disappear Fear, C.C. Carter, Tret Fure and her band, Jamie Anderson, Martine Locke, Andrea Gibson, Edie Carey, Cris Williamson and her band, comics Mimi Gonzalez, Judy Piazza, Karen Williams Ellis, Driftwood Fire, and the drag troupe All the King's Men. The 2009 festival featured musicians Lucie Blue Tremblay, Sarah Bettens, Erin McKeown, Zoe Lewis, Patrice Pike, and comics Lisa Koch, Vickie Shaw and Roxanna Ward.
In 2013, Cris Williamson, Melissa Ferrick, Big Bad Gina, Voices of Africa, Jean and June Millington, Gina Yashere, Kristen Ford Barb Nelligan, and Ginger Doss performed at the NWMF.
There have been a variety of conferences held concurrently at the NWMF. The Music Industry Conference (MIC)
Open mikes, auctions, stages, workshops, conferences
|Year||Jane Schliessman Award for Outstanding Contributions to Women’s Music||Jeanine C. Rae Award for the Advancement of Women’s Culture|
|1986||Dino Sierp||Jocelyn Cohen|
|1988||Teresa Boykin||Lesbian Connection|
|1989||Kay Gardner||Audre Lorde|
|1990||Vicki Randle||Terri Jewell|
|1991||Ronnie Gilbert||Toni Armstrong Jr., Hot Wire|
|1992||Judy Dlugacz||Anyda Marchant (aka Sarah Aldridge)|
|1993||Catherine Roma||Naiad Press|
|1994||Myrna Johnston||Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon|
|1996||Laurie Fuchs||Margarethe Cammermeyer|
|1997||Margie Adam||Carol Seajay|
|2002||Lucie Blue Tremblay||Carolyn Gage|
|2014||Edwina Lee Tyler||Lesbian Connection|
|2018||Nancy Scott||Martha Wheelock|
There have been a variety of other awards given, many of which are more recently created. The Women in the Arts Appreciation Award was given to Harriet Claire in 1996 and the Fort Wayne Women's Bureau in 1997. The Women in the Arts Kristin Lems Social Change Through Music Award's inaugural honoree was Kristin Lems in 2015. In 2018, it was awarded to Gaye Adegbalola. The Sarah Dwyer WIA Board of Directors’ Special Appreciation Award was given to Beth Kennon and Marilyn Krump in 2015 and Carla Carter, Jorjet Harper, and Nedra Johnson in 2018. The Women in the Arts Technical Skills Award was given to Jill Anania in 2014 and Sondra Bolte in 2018. The Women in the Arts Volunteer Award was given to Bonnie Zwiebel in 2014 and Connie Webb in 2018. The Women in the Arts Marketplace Award was given to Goldenrod in 2018. In 2014, Ruth Rowan was awarded the Phyllis Roark Philanthropy Award. The Ruth Ann Rowan Believer Award was awarded to Bonnie Morris in 2017 and Kaia Skaggs in 2018.
Musicians and musical groups
- Margie Adam
- BeBe K'Roche
- Tracy Chapman
- Chicago Women's Liberation Rock Band
- Meg Christian
- The Deadly Nightshade
- Alix Dobkin
- Maxine Feldman
- Melissa Ferrick
- Sue Fink
- God-Des and She
- Janis Ian
- June Jordan
- Laura Love
- Holly Near
- Toshi Reagon
- Sweet Honey in the Rock
- Tribe 8
- Cris Williamson
Others - comedians, speakers, and workshop presenters
- Kate Clinton
- Angela Davis
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