Banjo Club of Radcliffe College
Radcliffe Banjo Club

Think about how many men would show up to a banjo class if the majority of players were women.  Similar to a dance club, the banjo club at Radcliffe College was a popular destination.  Yet this class was apparently for female banjo and guitar players only.  The banjo club, as it was called, was a group of female college students who studied and played banjo together.


Interestingly, in the banjo classes that this author holds today, the majority of students are males.  The women who desire to learn the banjo may be fewer in numbers today, but their skill level and desire to play is equal if not greater than their male counterparts.   Professional female banjo players, such as banjo virtuoso Allison Brown, have demonstrated that the five-string banjo is not intended to be played by men alone. That in itself is a great thing for both the instrument and the music.  The diversity of players only enhances the popularity of the instrument.


1891 Group Portrait of Radcliffe's Banjo Club1892 Group Portrait of Radcliffe Banjo Club


Today there doesn't seem to be many college banjo clubs, let alone organized groups such as the ones from Radcliffe college in the late 1890s and early 1900s. These women were pioneers for the male and female banjo players of today.  While the style of music may have changed, the desire to get together with others and learn and perform music together is a bond that only true musicians share and understand.



Digital Images Used by Permission of

Radcliffe College Archives, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

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