Jessie M. Soga

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Jessie Margaret Soga

LRAM
Born21 August 1870
Transkei Cape, South Africa
Died23 February 1954
Rottenrow, Glasgow, Scotland
EducationDollar Academy , Royal Academy of Music, London
OccupationContralto singer and music teacher
OrganizationWomen's Freedom League Women's Social and Political Union
Known forclassical singer and suffrage campaign organiser
ParentsFather Reverend Tiyo Soga Mother Janet Burnside female Christian missionary
Relativesone of 8 siblings: 5 brothers (one died at birth) and 3 sisters including Jotello Festiri Soga South African veterinary specialist

Jessie Margaret Soga, LRAM (21 August 1870[1][2] – 23 February 1954[3][4]) was a Xhosa/Scottish contralto singer, music teacher and suffragist. She was described as the only black suffrage campaigner based in Scotland.[5] Soga was a lead member of the Women's Freedom League in Glasgow and later joined the Women's Social and Political Union; but did not carry out militant activity, using her organisational skills and musical talent to raise funds.

Family and early life[edit]

Jessie Soga was the youngest daughter of Reverend Tiyo Soga (1831–1871), the first black South African minister to be ordained, who became a missionary and translator.[6] She was born in Tutura (Somerville) in Transkei, the Cape, South Africa, a year before her father's death in 1871.[7] Her mother was Scottish missionary Janet Burnside (1827–1903), who met her father when he was in Scotland whilst studying theology in Glasgow.[1] Her mother and siblings returned to Scotland when he died, and Jessie and all the other children went to school at Dollar Academy.[8]

Dollar Academy - Playfair Building

She attended and had fees paid from 1879 to 1882.[9] In 1882, Jessie was commended in her sewing class,[10] ten years later took a course in 1892 at the Edinburgh School of Art and was awarded 2nd class level pass for Plant Drawing in Outline.[11] She was highly commended in the Girls Own Paper puzzle competition in 1897,[12] although she was already teaching singing, and performing by then, for example as soloist at the Kelvingrove United Presbyterian Choir's "very creditable performance" of The Wreck of the Hesperus,[13] and as soloist at Coatbridge Corporation Recitals.[14]

The Soga siblings, apart from Jessie, returned to live in South Africa: William Anderson Soga (1858–1948) who became a doctor and missionary;[15] John Henderson Soga (1860–1941), who also became a missionary;[16] Allan Kirkland Soga (1861–1938), an early mover in the African National Congress;[17] her sisters, Isabella Macfarlane Soga (1864–1884) and Frances Maria Anne Soga (1868–1942) also worked in Christian missions,[17] and Jotello Festiri Soga (1865–1906), who became South Africa's first black veterinary surgeon.[18] Jessie stayed with her mother and they holidayed with a friend in St. Andrews in August 1901.[9]

Musical education and career[edit]

Soga was described as a "new contralto" when she performed with other soloists in a Glasgow City Hall concert on 16 November 1895,[19] and was already offering private music tuition.[20]

Soga formally completed her professional studies in Singing and music in 1894 and 1895, under Richard Cummings, Llewela Davies and George E. Mott at the Royal Academy of Music, London, whilst living at 8 South Crescent, Bedford Square.[9] Her qualifications were firstly as a singing teacher in December 1901[21] licenciate (LRAM) and almost a decade later in September 1910,[22] RAM examiners, Henry William Richards and William Gray McNaught passed her for Voice-Culture and Class Singing.[9]

Her musical education and reach was international, as she had studied under Italian singing teacher Alberto Giovannini at the Milan Conservatory; he also taught Irish composer Thomas O'Brien Butler[23] as well as Italian tenor Francesco Tagmagno and Austrian baritone Joseph Kaschmann.[24] She also advertised being taught[25] in Paris (presumably before he left for America in 1904) by Jacques Bouhy.[9] One of Soga's own pupils was African-American Helen A. Moore of Fiske Jubilee Singers whilst on an international tour and performing in Glasgow, who said later (in 1930) that she rated Soga as "among the leading vocalists of the country".[26]

Soga performed at a "successful concert" of Beethoven's Mass in C major with 90 voices of the Blairgowrie and Rattray Choral Society on 30 March 1899, when her solo singing was commended:

'"Miss Soga proved a great favourite. She is the possessor of a rich mellow voice, which manifests at times the caressing quality characteristic of a daughter of the Orient. She was heartily encored for her first song, and responded with a sympathetic rendering of Bonnie Wee Thing; whilst Stay at Home was sweetly interpreted."[27]

Her outfit was also described in a section called "Some of the Dresses [by Helen]" as "old gold satin, veiled black-striped gauze, the rounded yoke of the high bodice being defined by graduated ruches of black chiffon."[27]

Soga was a member of Wellington United Free Church in Glasgow, and was the Corresponding Secretary for the church's Christian Endeavour Society.[28] Topics that were the subject of the Society's programme included Mission work and Temperance. The Society was for younger members of the church, and its aim was to "promote an earnest Christian life among its members."[29]

Soga sang a solo "Like as the hart desireth" from Psalm 42 during a Social Evening in the church in May 1902.[30]

On 1 January 1903, Soga was the contralto soloist in the Coatbridge Choral Union "Grand New Year's Mid-Day Concert" performance of Handel's Messiah,[31] but on that occasion she was described as "weak at the outset but she improved wonderfully as time went on ... her best effort was the passage 'He was despised'."[32] She performed in Messiah again at Turriff on 15 December 1903, with their choral society.[33]

In September 1910 she passed the examination in voice-culture and class-singing at the Royal Academy of Music. [34]

As she continued to perform at venues large and small across Scotland, with choral groups, or as a soloist, she also supported fundraising and political events, in 1910, singing for the British Women's Temperance Association in St Andrew's Hall, Glasgow at the World Women's Christian Temperance Union International Convention, with the international youth choir of 600 voices,[35] and adding variety between speakers at local branches of the Temperance League[36] or Land League. Its journal in 1919 noted "the success of the gathering was in no small measure due to the excellent entertainment provided by, […] the songs by Miss Soga.[37][38]

Soga advertised in The Scotsman for singing pupils, teaching weekly in a piano specialist salesroom,[39] near a girls' school in Stafford Street, Edinburgh.

Soga used her singing talents and connections in organising entertainments or raising money as part of the leadership in Glasgow of the women's suffrage campaign between 1908 to 1917.

In 1924, Soga joined An Commun Gaidhealach but it is not known if she performed at any of the National Mòds.[40]

Involvement in women's suffrage campaign[edit]

In 1908, Soga was one of the "prime movers", according to suffrage campaign leader Teresa Billington-Greig, in creating a large new Women's Freedom League branch in the prosperous West End of Glasgow (Hillhead). The public launch meeting at the Hillhead Burgh Hall greatly exceeded expectations, as the numbers overflowed the main hall and a second room, with a large membership as a result.[41] Soga and E.S. Semple were appointed joint branch secretary in February 1908 and hosted an "At Home" event in the same halls in April, with Margaret Irwin (trade unionist) as keynote speaker.[42]

The size and scale of events included national occasions, such as in March 1908, when Soga provided the singing, organised recitations and a violinist at an "overflowing" event at Glasgow's grand Grecian buildings (Prince of Wales Halls) to welcome released Scottish (WSPU) prisoners from Holloway. It was Agnes Husband of Dundee who welcomed the speakers Amy Sanderson and Anna Munro (both prisoners themselves, who shared a hymn sung in prison, and were already on the WFL National Executive Committee) and the other speaker was WFL leader Teresa Billington-Greig.[43] By October that year, fortnightly branch meetings were being held, with Soga still joint branch secretary, now with M.Barrowman.[44] Her name is mentioned in private letters between suffrage leaders Helen Crawfurd and Janet Barrowman.[9]

Soga's model of a "Cafe Chantant" was one of the most successful events, in attracting large numbers and raising £75,[45] and was rolled out to other branches.[46] She also organised the entertainment for the WSPU "Scottish Exhibition" at Charing Cross,[47] and for smaller branch meeting socials. She made contributions from her concert earnings and teaching fees,[48][49] including towards the London WSPU events.[50]

The Suffragette newspaper

Although involved in the Women's Social and Political Union she did not take part in violent protests. She chaired WSPU meetings in nearby towns, like Blackwood,[51] and donated home-made marmalade for sale at events.[52] She also organised a profitable circulating library,[53] personally donating books to the WSPU Sauchiehall Street office, and donated for a six months' subscription to Women's Franchise to be sent to Woodside District Library[54] Soga's involvement in WSPU ended around 1917, though WSPU had suspended itself when World War One broke out in 1914, in an agreement to end militant action in return for releasing women who had been imprisoned.[55]

The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave some women the right to vote.[56]

Soga died in the Old People's Cottages in Rottenrow in the early hours of 23 February 1954,[4] aged 83, and her funeral was at the Western Necropolis Crematorium, Glasgow.[3]

Awareness of her role[edit]

In 2021, as yet, no accessible images of Soga have been identified, nor is it known if there were other Scottish women of colour campaigning for the vote. Dr. TS Beall said Scotland's suffragists' and suffragettes' activities were not taught 'much' in Scottish schools, and their names were not generally known.[5]

Soga was included in a new educational game (Top Trumps-style) on Scotland's Suffragettes Trumps, produced by Protests & Suffragettes (an artists, activists and local history group including Dr. Beall) by crowdfunding to send 700 sets to schools.[5] Women's History Scotland's Dr. Yvonne McFadden called it 'a fun and important tool to make sure these women and their stories' are included in the Scottish school curriculum, as women's history is often limited in school history teaching.[5]

Further information[edit]

Soga's name has been added to the website "PlainsightSOUND", an online history of Black Classical musicians in the United Kingdom. Her name and a short biography have been added to its timeline. [57]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Janet Burnside Soga | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  2. ^ "1901 census, 6 Montague Street, Glasgow, Kelvin, Lanarkshire". Scotland's People. 1901. Retrieved 20 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ a b "Notices - SOGA". The Glasgow Herald. 23 February 1954.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b "1954 Soga, Jessie Margaret Statutory Registers Deaths 644/7 32". Scotland's People. 22 February 1954. Retrieved 20 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c d Paterson, Kirsteen (6 December 2021). "Gallusness 10: The Top Trumps-style project taking suffragette stories to schools". The National. p. 19. Retrieved 6 December 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "Tiyo Soga | South African author". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  7. ^ Cousins, H. T. (Henry Thomas) (1899). From Kafir kraal to pulpit : the story of Tíyo Soga. Library Services University of Pretoria. London : S.W. Partridge.
  8. ^ "Upcoming documentary on the extraordinary life of South African Dollar FP". Dollar Academy. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f McCracken, Ian; Davis, Joanne Ruth (June 2021). "PERSPECTIVES ON JESSIE MARGARET SOGA'S LIFE AND CAREER". Bulletin of the National Library of South Africa. 75 (1): 29–46.
  10. ^ "Dollar Institution, Exhibition July 26 1882 - Sewing Class Lower School". The Alloa Advertiser. 29 July 1882.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ "Edinburgh School of Art Passes". Edinburgh Evening News. 20 July 1892.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ "Our Puzzle Poem ' A Bad Servant' - Highly Commended". The Girl's Own Paper. No. Vol.18. 1897.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ "Sacred Concert". Glasgow Evening Post. 20 December 1895.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "Coatbridge Corporation Recitals". Glasgow Herald. 4 February 1897.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ MacKenzie, John M.; Dalziel, Nigel R. (19 July 2013). Scots missions and the frontier. Manchester University Press. doi:10.7765/9781847794468.00009. ISBN 978-1-84779-446-8.
  16. ^ "Soga, John Henderson (A)". dacb.org. Retrieved 18 February 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ a b Davis, Joanne (27 March 2015). "Family Trees: Roots and Branches – The Dynasty and Legacy of the Reverend Tiyo Soga". Studies in World Christianity. 21 (1): 20–37. doi:10.3366/swc.2015.0103. ISSN 1354-9901.
  18. ^ "Vets Past QRS". www.nda.agric.za. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  19. ^ "Popular Entertainments - City Hall - Saturday Evening Concert (advertisement)". Glasgow Herald. 5 November 1895. p. 6.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ "Education - Singing Miss Jessie M. Soga (advertisement)". The Glasgow Herald. 3 September 1896. p. Front page.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ "Front Matter". The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular. 43 (708): 73–80. 1902. ISSN 0958-8434. JSTOR 3369576.
  22. ^ "Country and Colonial News". The Musical Times. 51 (813): 740–741. 1910. ISSN 0027-4666. JSTOR 906205.
  23. ^ "Chit Chat". The Stage. 10 March 1904.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ "Dizionario biografico dei friulani". www.dizionariobiograficodeifriulani.it. Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  25. ^ "General Notices". The Scotsman. 16 October 1907. p. 1.
  26. ^ "Colored Minister to Tell Problems Confronting Race". Sierra Madre News. 21 February 1930.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  27. ^ a b "Blairgowrie and Rattray Choral Society - A Successful Concert". The Dundee Advertiser. 31 March 1899. p. 6.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. ^ "Christian Endeavour Society". Report of Wellington United Free Church: 12. 30 September 1901.
  29. ^ "Report of the Christian Endeavour Society". Report of Wellington Free Church Glasgow: 41. 30 September 1901.
  30. ^ "Programme of Social Evening". Wellington United Free Church: 3.
  31. ^ "Coatbridge Choral Union - Grand New Year's Mid-Day Concert". Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser. 27 December 1902.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  32. ^ "Coatbridge Choral Union - "The Messiah"". The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser. 3 January 1903. p. 5.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. ^ "Turriff". The People's Journal. 26 December 1903. p. 8.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ "The Musical Times". The Musical Times. 51 (813): 740. 1 November 1910. ProQuest 7254457 – via Proquest.
  35. ^ "BWTA". The Airdrie and Coatbriadge Advertiser. 26 May 1910. p. 4.
  36. ^ "Temperance Demonstration - Last Night". The Alloa Advertiser. 9 February 1907.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  37. ^ "News of the Movement - Edinburgh League". Land-Values. No. Twenty-Fourth Year No. 288. May 1918. p. 106.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  38. ^ "News of the Movement - Edinburgh League". Land & Liberty. No. Twenty-sixth Year no. 301. June 1919. p. 145.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  39. ^ "Pianoforte-makers in Scotland". www.lieveverbeeck.eu. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
  40. ^ "An Commun Gaidhealach - Ordinary Members". An Gaìdheal. No. Vol. XX. November 1924. p. 32.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  41. ^ "Scottish Notes". Women's Franchise. January 1908. p. 345.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  42. ^ "Branch Notes - Hillhead Branch". Women's Freedom League. 20 February 1908. p. 392.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  43. ^ "Scottish Notes". Women's Freedom League. 19 March 1908. p. 444.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  44. ^ "Branch Notes - The Hillhead Branch". Women's Freedom League. 1 October 1908. p. 153.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  45. ^ "Branch Notes - Hillhead Branch". Women's Freedom League. 24 December 1908. p. 313.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  46. ^ "Scottish Notes". Women's Freedom League. 31 December 1908. p. 324.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  47. ^ "The Scottish Exhibition - The Openers:Lady Constance Lytton and Miss Decima Moore - The Entertainment". Votes for Women. 29 April 1910. p. 494.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  48. ^ "Guarantee Fund to "Women's Franchise"". Women's Franchise. No. 29. 16 January 1908.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  49. ^ "Contributions to the £250,000 Fund October 14 to October 18". The Suffragette. 25 October 1912. p. 21.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  50. ^ "Come to Our Christmas Sale - Large Crowds and Record Sales". The Suffragette. 13 December 1912. p. 128.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  51. ^ "Glasgow". The Suffragette. 28 November 1913. p. 163.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  52. ^ "Glasgow". The Suffragette. 21 February 1913. p. 298.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  53. ^ "Contributions to the £250,000 Fund - December 20 to December 30". The Suffragette. 3 January 1913. p. 173.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  54. ^ "Notes". Women's Franchise. No. 43. 23 April 1908.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  55. ^ Geddes, J. F. (February 2008). "Culpable Complicity: the medical profession and the forcible feeding of suffragettes, 1909–1914". Women's History Review. 17 (1): 79–94. doi:10.1080/09612020701627977. ISSN 0961-2025. S2CID 145175769.
  56. ^ "How UK women get the vote: Suffragettes, suffragists and the Representation of the People Act 1918 - CBBC Newsround". Retrieved 18 February 2021.
  57. ^ "August 21, 1870 - February 23, 1954 Jessie Margaret Soga". PlainsightSOUND. 24 June 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)