Playlist︱Female Musicians Through the Decades


“MC Lyte” by Gage Skidmore is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0. | “File:Kathleen Hanna live in Bikini Kill in 1991.jpg” by jonathancharles is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0. | “Record Store Day: Little Simz” by p_a_h is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Rigid barriers once prevented women from breaking into male dominated musical genres. While the musical climate today is not perfect, female musicians have made significant progress in breaking these barriers for the past 50 years. 

This month we are celebrating the women who pioneered in their genres and became role models for girls growing up in a world where barriers continue to push them out. These ladies remind women everywhere that they can not be pushed out of any space they desire to occupy.

As rock music began to dominate the later half of the 20th century, the girls were not about to be left out. The 1970s brought the rise of the all-girl rock group, The Runaways. This group brought the bad girl rock attitude that was often required for women to break into rock music. They fueled rebellious young women, threatened patriarchal norms and gave Joan Jett her big break into the music industry. They are largely credited for paving the way for women in rock music. A 2010 movie titled “The Runaways,” starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, followed the group’s rise to fame.

These early female rockers gave way to the ‘90s Riot Grrrl movement, a counterculture feminist punk movement that sought to challenge the patriarchy. The ‘90s girl group, Bikini Kill, spearheaded the movement and is credited with creating the “Riot Grrrl Manifesto,” written by lead singer Kathleen Hanna. It was clear by the words in the manifesto and by the music they created that these girls were here to shock, scare and start a revolution.

However, the rock girls weren’t the only ones bringing rebellious attitude.Women in pop music have also been challenging patriarchal norms for decades. Whether it’s Madonna embracing her sexuality, Cyndi Lauper celebrating the rebelliousness of girlhood, or Lady Gaga encouraging confidence in women and LGBTQ-identifying people, the patriarchy has been shaken. This playlist features these groundbreaking pop ladies and many more.

Additionally, women have been breaking barriers in hip-hop and rap longer than many people realize. The Sequence, a hip-hop trio formed in 1979, is widely regarded as the first female hip-hop group

Lana Michele Moorer, better known as MC Lyte, created the album Lyte as a Rock which is widely regarded as the first full hip-hop album made by a woman/woman of color. Now women have taken the rap and hip hop industries by storm. One British rapper, Little Simz, is becoming increasingly popular for her feminist lyrics and women-empowering message. 

These artists and many more included in our playlist continue to inspire women to chase their dreams and stick it to the man. Female pioneers and their modern adaptations continue to shape the history of music. Enjoy the many genres and styles included in this playlist as you celebrate feminine power.