The following is a list of female composers in the Western concert tradition, ordered by their year of birth. Women composers' names are still largely absent from music textbooks and concert programs that constitute the Western canon, even though a large number of women have composed music. The reasons for women's exclusion are various.
The musicologist Marcia Citron speculated that women composers were deemed less important than men because women typically wrote smaller works, such as art songs, rather than large works, such as symphonies, for public performance in large halls. Female composers were long barred from the profession, owing in part to the essentialist notion that women could not, in Citron's words, "control emotion with logic and reason, masculine attributes requisite for composition." Women were systematically denied access to compositional training and musical performances, and were castigated by critics for writing music that was either too feebly feminine or too unbecomingly masculine. Because the discrimination against women composers is related to general societal attitudes about gender or perceived roles of men and women, many musicologists and critics have come to incorporate gender studies in assessing the history and practice of the art.
Some notable Western composers and musicians include: Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179), a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath; Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847); Clara Schumann (1819-1896); Ethel Smyth (1858-1944); Amy Beach (1867-1944); Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979); Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979); Germaine Tailleferre (1892-1983); Lili Boulanger (1893-1918); and Sofia Gubaidulina (1931-).
Female composers are also listed alphabetically at List of female composers by name.