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Women hymn-writers exerted "subversive" influence on Church

Although they lacked public voice during Victorian times, women wrote most of the top 100 hymns sung today in British churches, according to a BBC radio feature broadcast this week.

Nearer My God to Thee, chosen as the last tune played by the musicians on the Titanic as it was sinking, is one of many examples of Victorian hymns written by women that have endured to the present day.

Producer Ian Hislop said he felt the women composers were very conscious of their position in society, but hoped that their work would be appreciated by future generations.

According to the program summary, women expressed some of their closest fears and wishes in the popular hymns. It describes the Victorian woman as a "disenfranchised, a-sexual, chattel .. at the zenith of the patriarchal society of Victorian Britain".

"To hear a church of Victorian, chauvinist husbands roaring 'suffer the children', 'Every hours I need thee', 'My Perfect submission, perfect delight', 'Take my love, I pour at thy feet' must have given the female authors a subversive pleasure."

Independent Catholic News

The Choir Invisible (BBC Radio 4)
CyberHymnal | Nearer my God to Thee
Songs of Praise (BBC)

22 Aug 2003