The Bower Family Band was a prominent presence in the music community of Rapid City in 1919, and Miss Rose Bower was a prominent soloist on her own. She had studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, and according to Rapid City Journal accounts, performed dozens of times a year at local events - both on cornet and as a whistler. Especially popular were her cornet solos when she accompanied herself on the piano.
She was famous outside of Rapid City as well; she was the woman with the golden cornet at state and national conventions of the Women’s Suffrage movement and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Her cornet would gather a crowd for a speaker or call the women to the start of a parade.
So of course she would be interested in the formation of the Rapid City Military Band. As her letter to the editor of the Rapid City Journal indicates, once the war was over and there was no chance the band would be a part of the Home Guard, she felt she had a right to be a member of the band.
Perhaps in 1919 the band already had hopes of being named a regimental band for the SD National Guard since they did go on to serve in that capacity for the 109thEngineers from 1924-1930. Perhaps it was just the times. At the March 10, 1919 meeting of the band’s board of directors, they voted to exclude women. Miss Bowers promptly responded with a letter to the editor of the Rapid City Journal (3/11/1919) pointing out that since both men and women were being asked to vote on a tax to support the band, it only seemed appropriate that women should be allowed to join. (Her sister and brother-in-law, Alice and Joseph Gossage were the editors of the paper.)
Although she was denied membership into the band, Rose Bower was a member of the civic orchestra in Rapid City for many years, and played a cornet duet with J. D. Bryson at a Rapid City Municipal Band concert in 1937. But Rose was 71 years old when the band finally extended an invitation to women to join the band in 1945, and there is no record of her ever being a regular member of the band. Or of the names of the first women to become members.
In 2018 the band is about 58% women and 42% men.
The band has never had a woman as conductor.