Ethel Leginska née Liggins (13 April 1886 - 26 February 1970) was a British pianist, music teacher, composer and conductor. She was a pioneer of women's opportunity in music performance and conducting.
Ethel Liggins was born in Hull, Yorkshire, England. With support from a wealthy patron, she studied in Frankfurt, Berlin and Vienna in 1900 with Theodor Leschetizky and James Kwast, and was performing in Europe under the stage name Ethel Leginska by 1906. She married American Roy Emerson Whittern in 1907 and had one son, but the couple divorced in 1918 and Leginska resumed her career, making her American debut in New York in 1913. After an unsuccessful custody fight for her son, she became outspoken about inadequate opportunities for women.
She ended her performing career in 1926 and turned to conducting, composing and teaching. One of her most important students was pianist-harpsichordist Gavin Williamson. Williamson was also a long-time student of Artur Schnabel, another Leschetizky pupil. She had been working as a conductor since the early twenties, using her status as a performer to book engagements as a guest conductor of European orchestras by promising to play as soloist. In 1925 she conducted the New York Symphony Orchestra, and continued to find engagements in American cities including Boston and Los Angeles. She established the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and the Boston English Opera Company, founded the National Women's Symphony Orchestra in New York and served as director of the Chicago Women's Symphony Orchestra. In 1940 Leginska moved to Los Angeles where she set up a studio and taught music. She died in Los Angeles in 1970.
She toured Australia in 1905.
Selected works include:
The Rose and the Ring, opera,
At dawn (text: Arthur Symons)