Women in the Arts
Dr. Roberta Bitgood (1908-2007)
Dr. Roberta Bitgood was an American organist, choirmaster, composer, and music educator. Bitgood was born in New London, Connecticut and attended the Connecticut College for Women, where she graduated at the age of 20. She also attended Guilmant Organ School (N.Y), Columbia and Union Theological Seminary. In her lifetime, she composed more than 70 choral and organ pieces, including "The Greatest of These Is Love," often sung at weddings. Bitgood worked as music director at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield, New Jersey for fifteen years. She was the first women to serve as president of the American Guild of Organists in 1975. She was also the first woman to receive a doctorate in sacred music.
Anna Hempstead Branch (1875-1937)
American poet Anna Hempstead Branch attended Smith College in 1893. Following graduation, her works were regularly published in national magazines, and the first of four collections she authored were published by Houghton Mifflin in 1901.
Branch lived much of her life in New York City where she participated in literary life and volunteered at the Lower East Side settlement house, Christodora House. There she formed the Poets' Guild to teach classes, form writing groups, and encourage the residents of the area tenements in their poetic efforts. She brought in other poets to support the Guild, including Pulitzer prize winners E.A. Robinson, Margaret Widdimer, and William Rose Benét.
Anna's mother, Mary, wrote popular children's poems and stories. Hempstead House was built in 1643 and was home to many generations of the Hempstead family. It is one of the oldest homes in New England and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.