Sadie Walker

In the summer of  1905, the YWCA meetings at Silver Bay were brightened by the violin solos of Miss Sadie L. Walker. From other reports of her concerts, we can guess her program included some Bach and Beethoven, and perhaps Couperin, Martini, Francoeur, Corelli and Bazzini. Miss Walker had been giving concerts since the early 1890s, and by 1907 would be teaching violin at the Gerard Conservatory of Elizabeth College, a woman’s four-year college in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The real excitement in her career took place in 1912, when she was studying with violin masters in Berlin. Back in the states, Alonzo Wilson of the Lincoln Temperance Chautauqua System, headquartered in Chicago, was trying to book her for a tour on his circuit, communicating via cable. When Miss Walker attempted to reply, her cable message was held up by German officials, who could not translate the word ‘Chautauqua’ and hence decided it must be a codeword, and Miss Walker a spy. Only when Miss Walker explained the American system of “tent Chautauquas” – educational assemblies that traveled from town to town with speakers and musicians – did the Germans relent and allow her message to pass.

In 1913, Miss Walker was described as “the most popular of the Chautauqua violinists.” She continued to tour and play in the U.S. and Canada into the 1920s.

— “The Student Conference at Silver Bay,” The College Folio, College for Women of Western Reserve University, October 1905; “Germany Suspicians,” The Lyceumite and Talent, June 1912; The Violinist, January 1913


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