The Learned Ladies

“The Learned Ladies” is a new musical internet series featuring stories, songs, poems and essays from obscure women composers and forgotten women authors of the past. Award-winning actress Elise Dewsberry plays southern belle Ann Reeves Jarvis as she welcomes us into her pre-Civil-War music room, introducing us to women authors and composers, like an antebellum “Masterpiece Theatre.” Mrs. Jarvis first tells us a little about the featured woman author’s background and literary bent, and then regales us with a reading, followed by a song.

(As an interesting side note, Ann Reeves Jarvis was the mother of Anna Jarvis – the woman who founded Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis is the character featured in the one-woman musical “Mother’s Mothers’ Day”. In that show, Anna is “inhabited” by the spirit of her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis. In the video of the one-woman musical – the picture on Anna’s side-table is a picture of the character from this video series.)

Episode #1

In the first episode, we meet Mary Virginia Terhune, who shocked her friends and family by publishing secretly under a pseudonym. Then we hear Amy Beach’s moving song which tells the story of Anita, jilted by the man she trusted with her life and heart.

Episode #2

The second episode of The Learned Ladies features excerpts from the intimate diary of Jane Tandy Hardin Cross, who writes about a friend’s heartbreaking loss of a child, and how the women of the time dealt with grief. The episode concludes with Amy Beach’s powerful song, “Ecstasy,” which examines the balance between storm and sunshine.

Episode #3

This episode’s story is one of our favorites of the season. It’s an excerpt from a wonderful vampire novel written by Catherine Anne Warfield, who was the daughter of the Mississippi Territory’s Secretary of State, Major Nathaniel Ware. In the excerpt, a young woman is asked by her grandfather to give up some of her blood. That’s followed by Amy Beach’s song, “Haste O Beloved,” which contemplates whether love can cross over the threshold of death (and back again).

Episode #4

This episode features a dramatic, spooky poem by Eleanor Percy Lee about a haunted house, followed by the passionate song “Forget Me Not” about a woman trying to reach the spirits of the dead.

Episode #5

Antebellum author Anna Cora Mowatt Ritchie lost a brother in a shipwreck, and expresses her grief through her writings for the stage. We excerpt one of her monologues in tonight’s episode, and couple it with Amy Beach’s passionate song, “The Western Wind,” a plea for the Sea to deliver a beloved who is far off on a distant sea.