Histories of progressive musical politics in mid-nineteenth-century Germany often center on the writings of Richard Wagner and Franz Brendel, relegating contributors such as the feminist and author Louise Otto (1819–95) to the periphery. However, Otto's lifelong engagement with music, including her two librettos, two essay collections on the arts, and numerous articles and feuilletons, demonstrates how one contemporary woman considered the progressive movements in music and in women's rights to be interrelated. A staunch advocate of Wagner, Otto contributed to numerous music journals, as well as her own women's journal, advising her female readers to engage with the music of the New German School. In the context of the middle-class women's movement, she saw music as a space for female advancement through both performance and the portrayals of women onstage. Her writings offer us a glimpse into the complex network of Wagner proponents who also supported women's rights, at the same time providing evidence for what some contemporary conservative critics saw as a concomitant social threat from both Wagnerian musical radicalism and the emancipated woman.
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