Letter from Elfrida Andree
With our rightful place considered to be in the home, it is unusual to hear of women like me making careers for ourselves in the late nineteenth century, yet here I am. My ventures in the world of music began at a young age, and I am grateful to my politically liberal father who never viewed me as less than my male peers. He, a physician by trade, was my ever-faithful advocate.
At the age of fourteen, I was sent from my home in Visby, Sweden to study organ in Stockholm. I was the first woman to graduate as organist from Stockholm’s Musikkonservatoriet. While I indeed loved to play organ, and fought for my post as organist in the Gothenburg Cathedral several years after my studies, I maintained even greater ambitions.
My strong ambitions changed laws. Women were not allowed to retain positions as organists in church, but by my hardwork and persistence, the law changed. Women were not allowed to be telegraph operators, but, again, my skill and stubborn will proved otherwise. I was among the first group of females who were granted permission to work as telegraph operators in 1865, and by 1880, the field became primarily dominated by women. As a female composer, it was nearly unheard of that my symphonic works could be performed, let alone composed well, but despite all odds and despite schemes to make it fail, my first symphony premiered in Stockholm in 1869. I held firm against all opposition.
Let this serve as a reminder; the old and overused adage ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ is certainly true. I was a strong-willed woman and held fast to my seemingly inappropriate beliefs that my music was worth contributing to society regardless of its feminine origin.
It’s true, I was eager and happy to elevate womankind, but this pioneer work for women came happenstantially; I did not choose to be a woman. I did, however, choose to love music. My career in music, my womanhood, and my will coincided in such a way that all aspects benefitted. The road was challenging. Yet, even though I often encountered incredulous reactions from fellow musicians and the general public, and although I had to cross socially conceived boundaries and parameters, a voyage often met with ill-will, it was a road well worth taking.
In the grand scheme of life, my contributions are only one thread in the tapestry of art and humanity, but I am glad to know that I created beautiful music and was able to elevate womankind. Let this, my journey, serve to remind you that anything is possible, no matter how your goals may be perceived; if you maintain a strong and resolute will, you can accomplish all you desire.