Born around 1820, Augusta Browne was a pianist, organist, composer, music pedagogue, entrepreneur, music critic, and writer. In Augusta Browne: Composer and Woman of Letters in Nineteenth-Century America
(University of Rochester Press, 2020), author Bonny Miller contextualizes the life and career of this remarkable woman who built a public career that at times seems at odds with her conservative Christian belief system. Browne spent much of her life in New England and the area around Washington, D.C. and had a regional reputation by the time of her death in 1882. Miller uses Augusta Browne as an example at once of an extraordinary woman who was involved in establishing nineteenth-century musical culture in the US, but also an ordinary woman whose experiences were typical of people in that era—the loss of loved ones, the trauma of the Civil War, the pain of dislocation and living through financial hardship, the comfort of deep religious belief, and the joys of marriage and a close family. In Miller’s hands, Brown’s life and career becomes a way to examine antebellum American culture through the lens of a peripheral figure perfectly placed to understand music making among middle-class Northern women.
Bonny H. Miller
is in independent scholar who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. She has taught piano and music history at universities in Missouri, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Virginia. Her essays also appear in Beyond Public and Private: Re-Locating Music in Early Modern England
and Cecilia Reclaimed: Feminist Perspectives on Gender and Music.
Kristen M. Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.