Gardner, Kay Papers

Span Dates: 1941 - 2003
Bulk Dates:
Volume: 9.105 linear feet (11 containers)


The Kay Gardner papers are comprised primarily of musical scores, vinyl phonograph discs, audiotapes, and videocassettes by Gardner, as well as phonograph albums featuring other women artists. The substantial collection of recordings of"women's music,"circa 1970s-80s includes such artists as Alix Dobkin, Chris Williamson, June Millington, Holly Near, Meg Christian, Linda Shear, Lavendar Jane, the Berkely Women's Music Collective, and others. Gardner's teaching materials, including slides, pertaining to music as a form of spirituality and its use as a therapeudic methodology are also included, as are photographs, correspondence, subject files, a small amount of biographical information, posters for Kay Gardner concerts, and artwork.

Hist/Bio Note

Kay Louise Gardner was born on Long Island, New York to Enez Melkom and Karl Albert Gardner. She had one brother, K. Winston Gardner. She had two daughters, Juliana Smith and Jenifer Wilson-Smith, to whose father she was married before coming out as a lesbian. Gardner studied music at the University of Michigan and at the State University of New York at Stoneybrook, where she earned a Master of Music (Performance) in 1972. In 1998, she was ordained as a priestess by the Fellowship of Isis in Ireland and, upon her return to the U.S., founded the Temple of the Feminine Divine and the Isium Musicum, a three-year ordination program. She gained the attention of Maine citizens in the 1980s when she filed suit against the Bangor Symphony for sex discrimination, based on having applied for the position of conductor and learning later (having not been hired) that a memo had circulated among the musicians asking how they would feel about playing under a woman conductor. Gardner was committed to making and promoting women's music, and was a founding member of the feminist lesbian band, Lavender Jane (1972), and of Women With Wings, a sacred singing circle. She also founded and recorded works with the New England Women's Symphony, in addition to being a prolific composer and recording artist in her own right. Gardner received numerous awards, including an honorary degree from the University of Maine. Her book, Sounding the Inner Landscape: Music as Medicine, was published in 1990. She died in 2002.

Finding Aid

An online finding aid is available.


Part of the Sophia Smith Collection of Women's History Repository Neilson Library Smith College 7 Neilson Drive Northampton MA 01063 specialcollections@smith.edu


Artist/musician/poet | Women's spirituality | Maine | Feminism