“I’ve Always Identified with the Women:” How Appalachian Women Ballad Singers’ Repertoire Choices Reflect Their Gendered Concerns

This presentation explores my thesis research concerning how contemporary Appalachian women’s gendered experiences influence their choices of ballad repertoire. I conducted my research through a feminist analysis of interviews with six women ballad singers from Madison County, North Carolina. In this presentation I discuss my findings: Women’s repertoire preferences reveal contemporary female concerns for physical safety and political agency. The singers also extract hidden transcripts from ballad texts and use ballads to educate audiences about women’s historic oppression. However, some singers find other factors, such as a song’s tune, or its significance as a part of regional heritage, to be more significant than the narrative content of the songs.