Women’s History Month – Traditional Song

For Traditional Song, as in our Traditional Song Week of The Swannanoa Gathering, we will focus on vocal traditional song.
We’ll cover quite a few artists here, but this of course is just a small sampling of the inspirational women around the world using their gifts and soul to promote cultural transmission.


Do you recognize these women?


Rachael Baptist (fl. 1750-1775)

Elizabeth Cronin
  (1879-1956)  What Would You Do?, Ballymakeery, Co. Cork

Elizabeth Cotten  (1893-1987)   Freight Train      
Delia Murphy (1902-1971)   Irish Examiner (’23)

Margaret Barry (1917-1989)    She Moved Through the Fair  Blarney Stone  Fil Campbell presents Songbirds: The First Ladies of Irish Song. Documentary

Máire Ní Shúilleabháin/Maire O’Sullivan (1926- ?)       The Airy Girl/An Cailín Aerach    An Cailín Aerach/ An Binnsín Luachra/ The Fairy Lullaby

Moya Brennan (1952-      Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2023   Ireland AM: Moya Brennan – the importance of the Irish language,…|

Delores Keane (1953-     Hand Me Down: I Am Thinking Ever Thinking, 1981 (Dolores, Rita, & Sarah Keane)

Mary McPartlan (1955-2020)  I ndíl chuimhne/Lovely Sailor Boy

Mary Black  (1955-    https://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/women-ireland-music.html

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh  (1959-      Casadh Cam Na Feadernai A Song from County Armagh (1985)

Cathy Jordan (1972-      NPR “The Thistle & Shamrock: Cathy Jordan at Swannanoa”

Eleanor Shanley     Long Black Veil     Mo Bhuachaillín Donn     Cathy Jordan, Eleanor Shanley & Friends sing Eileen Óg

Cathie Ryan       Somewhere Along the Road    Slan Abhaile     The Wild Flowers   The Farthest Wave


Dyvyna (Ensemble)  Ukraine  Article with video of a folk song.

Neha!  Slovakia  U Lisi (Ukrainian Folk Song)

Miriam Mekeba (1932-2008 )   South Africa   Mbube   Qongqothwane   Pata Pata   Finland Interview – 1969  African Biographics Documentary

Maestra Olivia Arévalo (1937-2018)   Peru     https://youtu.be/m28Kslrs9is?si=yODZJ9ZHQj1h65Qw

Clara Santi   Ecuador    Waranga Flower Woman: A Pastaza Quichua song to a tree in memory of a grandmother.

Yangchan Tsomo   Tibet   Mejeeki 
Orgilmaa.B    Mongolia    Urtiin duu

Otomaru (1906-1976)   Japan    “Sendō kawai ya” Japanese folk song

Amália Rodrigues   (1920-1999)   Portugal   Best of Amalia Rodrigues: Queen of Fado

Esther Helen    Indonesia    Bengawan Solo

Pancasila University Choir    Indonesia    Hela Rotane

Gülbahar rozi    Uyghur    Teshna Bolup

Chenoa Egawa (1963-     Coast Salish of the Lummi and S’Kallam Nations (Washington State)  Straight SongAncestors Honor SongNational Nordic Museum

Joan Henry     Tsalagi (Cherokee Nation)  Women’s Honoring SongHV Biz Magazine Interview

Fawn WoodTapwe Oma  (From Album Songs of Indigenous Womanhood)
Fawn & Tia Wood    Amiskwacīwiyiniwak, Canada    Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Salish    Pow Wow Entry Song

The Bearhead Sisters (Allie, Trina, and Carly)   Paul First Nation, Canada   “A song that brings us together”  Song Name Unknown   Album: Unbreakable

Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)

Dr. Mattie Moss Clark (1925-1994)   Mother to The Clark Sisters

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)      Mahalia Jackson sings at a Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in May 1957.    Paul Schutzer; Time & Live Pictures/Getty Images

Sara & Mayebelle Carter (1898-1979, 1909-1978)    Sweet Fern, 1967   Mother Maybelle and The Carter Sisters Foggy Mountain Top

Rhiannon Giddens (1977-      New Yorker “Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means”     “My Music with Rhiannon Giddens” (PBS)

Alynda Mariposa Segarra they/them (Hurray for the Riff Raff)  Blue Ridge Mountain

Suzannah Park  Appalachian Musical Storytelling       Old Virginia    Hick’s Farewell


We asked our Traditional Song Week Coordinator, Matt Watroba, to name a woman traditional singer who lives and breathes cultural transmission, who is a brilliant teacher, and who is an inspiration in the pursuance of connection through promoting and creating broad relevancy and accessibility. His answer: Saro Lynch-Thomason. He appreciates her abilities and methods as a teacher, her skill as a singer, the depth and quality of her voice, and the soul in her song-leading. Saro is also a documentarian and illustrator.
Listen to a fantastic A Breath of Song podcast episode (ep. 50, 2022) with Saro here. 

A Conversation between Saro Lynch-Thomason and Suzannah Park “Appalachian Ballad Singer Says Some Songs Are Just Too Painful To Sing”

“Having been a singer of traditional Appalachian ballads for over 50 years, it’s hard for this old warhorse to get chills when I hear someone sing. But, Saro Lynch-Thomason is the exception. Saro sings with an intensity and intonation that belies her age. There’s something ancient that lives inside Saro’s voice. She sings with heart and soul and people listen. I consider her the singer among singers of her generation.”
 Sheila Kay Adams, Beloved SG Instructor, NEA National Heritage Fellow, 7th generation ballad singer


And to bring it all back around to The Swannanoa Gathering, we are honored to highlight our 2024 Traditional Song Instructors (teaching vocal classes).

Traditional Song Week
Cathie Ryan
Saro Lynch-Thomason
Shirley Smith
Pamela English
Kay Justice

Celtic Week
Nuala Kennedy
Cathie Ryan

Old-Time Week
Cary Fridley
Kelli Jones
Ellie Grace


Matt Watroba’s No Root No Fruit podcast: Season 1, episode 3: Hazel & Alice

The Sacred Feminine Within – Songs of Native Women

Putumayo Presents Celtic Women

And so much more!
















Kimberly Ann Clark 03.29.2024