Female Pioneers in Country Music
One of the most notable female pioneers in the world of country music was Kitty Wells, a Nashville native who rose to stardom during the Honky-Tonk era. Wells, called "the Queen of Country Music," is probably best known for her song "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels." This song and Wells's work overall brought consciousness to the female perspective within the country music world. This is significant not only for purposes of diversity within the genre, but also to express the struggles that women experience within rural America and even in the country music industry itself. Wells came from a working class family in South Nashville and worked at Washington Manufacturing Company "ironing and folding shirts" (Friskics-Warren, 1999) before being discovered as a musician. Wells also lived through the Great Depression, and was no stranger to struggle in terms of economic and social class.
Another famous female country artist was Patsy Cline. Cline was born in Westchester, Virginia in 1932 to a blacksmith and a seamstress ("Patsy Cline," 2015). Cline's parents eventually separated, leaving her mother to support Cline and her siblings. Cline had the rural, working class upbringing that is iconic in country music. She is renowned as one of the most incredible vocalists not only in the the country music genre, but also in popular American music. Cline rose to stardom around the 1960s, and is known for her lovesick ballads such as "Crazy." Cline was significant as a female figure in country music, as she helped other female artists, such as Loretta Lynn, break into the industry ("Patsy Cline," 2015).
Perhaps the most unforgettable woman in country music is Dolly Parton, the most honored female country music performer of all time ("Dolly Parton Bio," n.d.). Parton was born to an impoverished family of twelve children in Sevier County, Tennessee, and began performing professionally in the late 1960s ("Dolly Parton Bio," n.d.). Her song "Coat of Many Colors" reflects on her experiences of difficult rural life with pride and sentimentalism. Parton now runs the Dollywood Foundation, which supports children in Tennessee in becoming more literate and having better opportunities no matter what their socioeconomic status.
These female pioneers in country music provided an important perspective in the genre that had previously been ignored. The female working class and lower class perspective is significant to consider when creating a more comprehensive portrait of what this part of America experiences. Though current country music has moved away from its rural working class beginnings, current country music women are trying to revive attention to this experience.
"Dolly Parton Bio." CMT Artists. Viacom, n.d. Web. 08 May 2015. <http://www.cmt.com/artists/dolly-parton/biography/>.
Friskics-Warren, Bill. "The Undisputed Queen." Editorial. Nashville Scene 8 Aug. 1999: n. pag. Weekly Wire. Nashville Scene. Web. 01 May 2015. <http://www.weeklywire.com/ww/08-30-99/nash_cover.html>.
"Patsy Cline." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 08 May 2015.