Read about the women in Maine’s musical history during National Reading Month

By Louise Miller, Education Director, Lincoln County Historical Association
Damariscotta Band in front of the Chapman-Hall House c.1890. Photographer unknown.

March is National Reading Month as well as Women’s History Month, and the two are tied together in a book by George Thornton Edwards. Music and Musicians of Maine details the role of music, beginning with Maine Native Americans as observed by early European explorers and ending with the state of the art of music in Maine in 1928. It covers the breadth of our music from sacred and classical to country, choral, and orchestral.

Edwards describes the important organizations in the forefront of Maine’s musical heritage. Among them were the Hayden Association of Portland, the Maine Festival Chorus, and the Hallowell Harmonic Society. He wrote about composers, musicians, music study clubs, as well as the use of specific musical instruments. One area in which the influence of ladies was prominent was the Portland Rossini Club, composed entirely of women, which bears the distinction of being the oldest musical club in America.

The Biographical Section – 1927-1928, lists all the men and women participating in the musical world of Maine in that year. A number of women noted for their contributions were born in Lincoln County.

  • Mrs. Helen S. Kelley of Wiscasset studied piano and violin with accomplished musicians in Boston. She was the concertmaster of the Portland Orchestral Society for three years. In the 1920s she performed as a professional violinist and taught violin.
  • Annie S. Kennedy was the daughter of Samuel and Clara Kennedy of Jefferson. By the 1920s Miss Kennedy taught piano and was the organist at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Brunswick.
  • Born in Bristol in 1884, Rena Hammond Ludden was teaching up and coming singers in the year Edwards wrote his book. Mrs. H.W. Coombs was noted as a music teacher in Whitefield, and Mrs. J.S. Chandler of Damariscotta was an accomplished pianist. Ethel Wentworth Box, born in Boothbay Harbor, performed as a mezzo soprano. During her career she taught voice and piano.
  • Mrs. W.H. Parsons’ place of birth was not given, but she was listed as a pianist and accompanist for the Newcastle-Damariscotta Festival Chorus.

Each of these Lincoln County ladies contributed to the quality and wealth of the music culture in Maine. In reflecting on the importance of the Maine Music Festival, Mr. Edwards wrote: “Besides furnishing the people of the State with some of the greatest thrills to be obtained through music, the Maine Music Festivals have been, throughout this long period (1897 to 1928), of incalculable educational value to music students. Their glorious past will be treasured in the memories of men and women of Maine until the last one of this generation shall have passed away.”

This look at Lincoln County history is presented by the Lincoln County Historical Association (LCHA), a nonprofit organization that provides stewardship for the 1754 Chapman-Hall House in Damariscotta, the 1811 Old Jail and Museum in Wiscasset, and the 1761 Pownalborough Court House in Dresden. For more information about LCHA visit and the Facebook page, Lincoln County Historical Association Maine.

Music and Musicians of Maine by George Thornton Edwards is available through interlibrary loan and online at Internet Archives: