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.)
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.