For a long time the prejudice has prevailed that women cannot compose, since they allegedly lack the requisite creative talent. It is indeed true that they have been less active in the field of musical composition than their male contemporaries, but reasons for this can be found in the social circumstances of the still recent past.
In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the ages of the Enlightenment and the flowering of great achievement in music, women were denied the education and encouragement which would have made possible individual accomplishment beyond the limits of domestic music-making. In spite of these hindrances there were highly gifted women who overcame the hurdles and were able to prove their talent for composition. Of course these belonged to the wealthy middle and upper classes, or were women from musical families who were able to receive a thorough training.
This selection, comprising 19 women composers from eight countries, cannot claim to be completely representative, both because there is as yet no systematic catalogue of the autographs and printed editions in archives and libraries and because it is limited to the period from the eighteenth century to the present. Yet the editors are convinced that the present publication is worthwhile and justified, and that each of the pieces can speak for itself.
Women composers have made their way in the face of prejudice and opposition; they will now pursue that way amid a manifest change in society's view of women and its attitude towards them.