I still remember the first time I heard of Peggy Glanville-Hicks. I was working at Fish Fine Music, still a relative newcomer to classical music, and the most joyous, triumphant, exhilarating piece of music came over the shop stereo. It was the Etruscan Concerto, by an Australian composer I had never heard of.

Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Women of Note

A minor figure, surely? A one-hit wonder? In fact, it turned out that this composer was a rockstar: a talented composer from her student days, a highly respected critic, musical director at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a fierce advocate for new music and a significant philanthropist. As a young man with aspirations to be a music writer, Peggy Glanville-Hicks’ biography was damn near the coolest thing I had ever read.

So how had I never heard of her? She should be a national icon, elevated into that rarefied air that we reserve for our most brilliant musicians, a trailblazer for her fellow artists. And once I started digging, I learned that, in fact, it is female composers who have been crucial to our country’s musical development, from Miriam Hyde and Dulcie...