Lived:1858 – 1944
Mostly In:Surrey, England
Best Known For:Mass in D, six operas, Concerto for Violin and Horn, The Prison
Similar To:Brahms, Wagner, Sullivan, Stanford

Ethel Smyth Ethel Smyth. Portrait from George Grantham Collection, Wikimedia Commons

In the county of Surrey, England, Dame Ethel Smyth has something of the status of a local hero. Blue plaques adorn all three of the buildings in which she lived. She was the face of a recent #WeAreWoking campaign, her likeness appearing on many a poster in the area. Less than a year ago, Woking Community Play Association wrote and performed a charming play about her life. But just how did an army general’s daughter from an obscure Surrey village rise to attain international success as one of the greatest British composers of her generation – and, moreover, during a period in which the notion of a woman writing large-scale works such as operas was all...