Shirley Graham Du Bois (1896-1977): Undeserved Obscurity

I was reading about Blackface Minstrelsy this morning, and reading about Mr Du Bois brought to mind his less famous but equally talented wife, Shirley. I owed the library blog a blogpost, so I put these various strands together …

Whittaker Live

Image from Wikipedia

Born in Indianapolis into a religious and politically active family (her father was an African Methodist Episcopal Minister), Shirley Graham Du Bois was a writer, playwright, novelist, composer and an activist for black rights.  The Harvard Radcliffe Institute has a page on this remarkable woman – and she features in Nathan Holder’s book for young adults, Where are all the black women composers?, which we have in the Whittaker Library. 

Nathan Holder – Where are all the Black Women Composers?

There’s also an entry in Oxford Music Online:

Wright, J.  Du Bois, Shirley (Lola) GrahamGrove Music Online. 

Shirley studied composition and orchestration in France in her early thirties, and then studied music at Oberlin College in the United States, also beginning a PhD in English and Education at New York University. Nate Holder tells us that she worked for Morgan College…

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Writing, Writing! Review Essay published …. Books on Robert Burns

Today saw the publication of my review essay of four new books on Robert Burns, in the Spring 2022 issue of Eighteenth-Century Scotland: The Newsletter of the Eighteenth-Century Scottish Studies Society.

It’s apparently embargoed for sharing until the newsletter goes online publicly in “a few months”, so no link to share just now. But if you subscribe to the newsletter, then keep a look-out for my piece! These are the titles I review:-

  • Ian Brown and Gerard Carruthers, ed., Performing Robert Burns: Enactments and Representations of the “National Bard”. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2021. Pp. vi + 210.
  • Katherine Campbell and Emily Lyle, Robert Burns and the Discovery and Re-Creation of Scottish Song. Musica Scotica Historical Studies of Scottish Music Volume 4. Glasgow: Musica Scotica Trust, 2020. Pp. xi + 233.
  • Morag J. Grant, Auld Lang Syne: A Song and Its Culture. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2021. Pp. xvii + E-book:
  • The Oxford Edition of the Works of Robert Burns, Volume 4: Robert Burns’s Songs for George Thomson. Edited by Kirsteen McCue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021. Pp. xcvi + 692.

(As an aside, it was quite a substantial piece of work – I am astonished that by some wizardry all those words fit 3 pages of pdf!)

Students’ Song Books

Today, I’m working from home wearing my library hat, but I have august company on the desk beside me. My fingers itch to give these new personal acquisitions a closer inspection, but they have to wait until tonight. Meanwhile, I can just look, and gloat.

LATER, MUCH LATER. How helpful! There’s a page at the back actually listing the history of editions of the Scottish Students’ Song Book. That saves me having to unpick the history from newspaper adverts.

Also interesting to note that Janey Drysdale contributed a couple of songs to the British Students’ Song Book, that were arranged by her late brother. Marjory Kennedy Fraser contributed a couple of songs too, the lyrics of which were by Dr Charles Kennedy, whilst she had arranged the musical settings. Neither woman contributed to the earlier Scottish book.

Students were, of course, mostly male. Marjory had been one of the first women to attend music lectures at Edinburgh University, but she didn’t graduate until she was awarded an honorary doctorate much later.

Now, there’s one burning question. Who was the third woman that contributed to the British Students’ Song Book? Yes, I need to know! I have a book to write.

Women’s Study Group CFP

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to contribute to this book, since I am researching a later era at the moment. (My latest heroine wasn’t even born by 1837, and she has just had a whole article written about her for another journal, so I haven’t much more to contribute at the moment.) Nonetheless, I share this for anyone who might be interested:-

Women’s Studies Group 1558 – 1837: Women’s and gender studies in the early modern period and long eighteenth century

Book: Call for Proposals:
WSG Edited Collection of Essays, “Global Exchanges”

Retrospective 2021 Part 1: Research in a Pandemic

Did we think we’d still be at this stage, now? With Delta still raging and Omicron striking fear and dread into many hearts? I worked from home until September 2021, then moved to a hybrid work-pattern (two days on campus, three at home) to add to my already hybrid 70% librarian, 30% researcher existence.

If I thought I’d done well in terms of visible, quantifiable outputs last year, this year has been far less successful. This is not a triumphant declaration of how much I have achieved, and anyone reading this can console themselves that they’ve probably done better!


I should add to my annual round-up, the fact that changes to my role as church organist also caused me an enormous amount of stress this year. So, in terms of achievements, the fact that I struggled, resigned, and have recently found another happier organist post counts as a significant achievement in that area of my life. It will undoubtedly improve my mental health to play in a different environment. The other position was slowly breaking me. It took me many months to take the decisive step of resigning.


I spent many hours writing and submitting a research grant application in the first half of 2021. Nearly one in three was successful. I was amongst the unsuccessful majority.

I’ve since spent as many hours again writing and submitting a second research grant application to a different body, but I won’t hear anything for a good few months yet. Since it was even more ambitious, I’m not raising my hopes.

Grant applications are soul-destroying. All the effort is completely unseen. To the outside eye, you have done nothing; and if you fail, you have achieved nothing apart from clarifying to yourself what you would have like to have done!


I spent innumerable hours working on a chapter about Scottish music subscribers in the late 18th to early 19th centuries, for a book which is due to appear at the end of 2021 or early 2022. I also published a book review in Brio – and more recently penned a mini-review of another book for a fellow alumna’s publishing house. Piped, That She Might Dance by Iain MacDonald

I have now drafted an introduction and two chapters for my next monograph, written an extensive literature review, and submitted the book proposal to a publisher towards the end of this year. Ah, the suspense, as I wait to hear if they’d like to publish it!

And I’ve written a fairly lengthy article for my professional journal – I’ve just sourced some great illustrations, and sent it to the editor the other day. It’ll probably be published next summer.

But if you’re looking for a list of actual publications, all I can offer is this pitiful list:-

  • James Porter, Beyond Fingal’s Cave: Ossian in the Musical Imagination (University of Rochester Press, 2019), reviewed in Brio Autumn/Winter 2020, Vol.57, no.2, pp.74-6


Leaving aside all the user education presentations, and a couple of guest lectures at my own institution, I haven’t much else to record. I did participate and present input in a IAML(UK & Irl) discussion about equality, diversity and inclusion in music libraries. But I haven’t been anywhere or spoken at any other conferences.


I’ve written blogposts and Facebook page posts about my research. I’ve also rescinded a number of blogposts, when I realised I was sharing free research which I would later want to include in formal pieces of research output. My librarian-self believes strongly in sharing information. My research-self is beginning to learn that sharing is good, but over-sharing is counterproductive.


  • The article I’ve just submitted for Brio;
  • An article is to be published out of a presentation about song-collector Alexander Campbell, which was given in 2020 (I just need to check it for footnote details etc);
  • A substantial essay reviewing four books;
  • A completely new conference paper about a somewhat unusual Scottish song collection;
  • Possibly chairing a conference session at a different conference;
  • I have submitted a proposal for yet another conference paper, this time about women’s compositions in libraries and reader development work on that subject, possibly also leading to a published article;
  • Continued work on the monograph.

At the end of the day, my output is pathetic in terms of a full-time academic – but I am not a full-time academic. What I achieve, research-wise, is done in 1.5 days a week. My research outputs are unusually significant for a librarian, though they go unnoticed in my library existence, where they don’t attract pats on the head!

It’s all my own fault. I walked away from a research career in 1984 when I abandoned my first PhD. I walked back into it in 2004 when I began research in my ‘spare time’ (in other words, time not spent doing a full-time job, being a parent, and being a church organist) for the PhD that I actually completed in 2009.

To anyone thinking of walking away from a PhD – stop, think! Ask yourself if there is any way you could somehow manage to finish it? I should have taken a part-time job and knuckled down to get that PhD done. Instead, I did a year as a graduate trainee in a university library, then trotted off to library school for a postgraduate diploma in librarianship. It was crazy to start another qualification in another discipline before finishing the doctorate. In my own defence, I wanted an occupational pension plan. And everyone (male – I hardly knew any women academics) said it was hard to get a job in academia. In the early eighties. (Aw, bless! How could it have been harder than it is today?)

Ask yourself if your future self might regret what you’re contemplating. I’m fiercely proud of what I have achieved in research terms, but I know I have underachieved compared to what I might have done in other circumstances. I think that what frustrates me is that I can’t put back what I didn’t do in those two missing decades. I really haven’t much to show for a career in librarianship – I might be a Fellow of my professional association, but I never climbed the career ladder in the slightest. I’ve selected good stock. I’ve done vast amounts of accurate cataloguing, helped with countless queries, and instructed hundreds if not thousands of students. Librarians are generally as invisible as pharmacists, quietly preparing the materials that their more high-profile academic/scientific colleagues depend on. And in a pandemic, we librarians become even more invisible!

Yes, I’m disappointed in myself. It becomes more depressing, the closer I get to retirement, because that will signify a time when I have to concede that for all I did, it hasn’t been enough.

Teaching Cultural History Through National Song

Back in 2013, I authored a blogpost for the Journal of Victorian Culture Online. Today, the Journal has been having a “Throwback Monday” of some kind, as they’ve found it in the archive and shared the link again. I had almost forgotten I’d written it, so it was nice to see it still considered of value.

Here it is again, first published 29 August 2013. ‘Teaching Cultural History Through National Song‘ by me, Karen McAulay (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland).

Royal Historical Society

I must share the excitement – I’ve been elected a member of the Royal Historical Society! It’s an honour, and I’m proud to be a musicologist considered worthy for election. So much is happening these days with regard to how history is viewed by various sectors of society – I feel it is important to be part of the informed conversation.

Sharing details of a cataloguing vacancy

Remember, my project into Stationers’ Hall copyright music included the erstwhile library of Sion College?

Anything surviving in that library went to Lambeth Palace, which now has a splendid new library building. Well, I have just seen this advert for a cataloguer posted. Knowing how little music is there, it’s a job for a rare books cataloguer really, but I can’t NOT share details, since I feel a tenuous connection with the library through our research project! AND if you scroll down, there’s another digital job, too …

Here goes – and good luck! :-

Project Cataloguer (Sion College Library) Lambeth Palace Library

Fixed term (two years) £26,954 p.a. rising to £28,983 p.a. after probation

Lambeth Palace Library, founded in 1610, is the historic library and record office of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Following the merger with the Church of England Record Centre in 2020 it is now the principal repository for the archives not only of the Archbishop of Canterbury but also of the National Church Institutions in London.

We are looking for a new team member to support the vision and mission of the Library by describing, developing, interpreting and promoting the Library’s collections for the benefit of readers, particularly the pre-1850 printed collections of Sion College Library (founded 1629).

Using your previous experience of cataloguing printed material and your understanding of cataloguing standards, you will create high-quality catalogue records for early printed books and other printed material, to agreed targets and standards.

Engaging with our readers and researchers, you will promote the use of the collections, answering enquiries and participating in outreach and engagement activities to support the Library’s vision to be accessible to all.

This post is offered on a fixed term contract expected to last for two years. Interviews are expected to be held on Tuesday 31st August 2021.For further details and to apply, please visit:…/project…. Informal enquiries may be made to

Digital Officer, Lambeth Palace Library. Secondment/fixed-term contract until August 2022

Salary: £26,954 rising to £28,983 per year after probation (pro rata)

This is an excellent opportunity to join Lambeth Palace Library, the National Library and Archive of the Church of England. The post is offered on a secondment/fixed-term contract expected to last until the beginning of August 2022.

You will provide copies of manuscript, archive and printed materials in digital formats for users of the Library and for outreach and preservation purposes and administer the service on a day-to-day basis, keeping accurate records of orders and payments. You will also maintain the digital image bank, storing new images with standard metadata according to agreed procedures.

To be successful, you will need ability and experience in digital photography as well as strong customer service and IT skills. We’re also looking for someone who is able to prioritise, and work accurately and methodically, handling material with due care for preservation and security.

This is a part-time role, working 21 hours per week.

To arrange an informal discussion about the role, please contact

Interviews will be held the week commencing 6th September 2021. For further details and to apply, please visit:

THE What are you reading? April 2021

I have contributed to the April 2021 ‘What are you reading?’ column in the Times Higher Education. My chosen book was Sean Reidy’s Dunbrody, A Famine Odyssey: How JFK’s Roots Helped Revive an Irish Town (Sean Reidy, 2020)

Follow this link:- – it’s easy to make a free account which entitles you to read a few articles a month.