Mabel Wheeler Daniels
Director of Music

Daniels photo (LoC).jpg

Dublin Core


Mabel Wheeler Daniels
Director of Music


Mabel Wheeler Daniels was born in Swampscott, Massachusetts around 1878 to George F. Daniels, a successful shoe manufacturer, and Maria (Wheeler) Daniels. The entire Daniels family was musically inclined; both of Mabel’s grandfathers were church musicians and ten members of her extended family, including her parents, were members of the Boston Handel and Haydn Society, of which her father was also president. Daniels herself exhibited musical talent from early childhood, studying piano and composing her first piece of music at the age of ten.

Daniels attended the Boston Girls’ Latin School, then went on to Radcliffe College, where she earned an A.B. in 1900 and graduated with honors. She continued to pursue music while at Radcliffe, leading the college’s glee club and performing in student operettas, two of which she composed herself. After graduation, she studied with composer George Whitefield Chadwick at the New England Conservatory of Music, applying to study abroad at the Royal Munich Conservatory on his recommendation. Daniels spent two years studying in Germany, becoming the first woman to gain admittance to the Munich Conservatory’s prestigious score-reading class and winning a medal from the school in 1903.

When Daniels returned to Boston, she joined the Cecilia Society, a local chorus, in order to gain experience in modern choral and orchestral music. She also published a memoir of her time in Germany, An American Girl in Munich: Impressions of a Music Student (1905). In 1911, Daniels assumed directorship of both the Radcliffe Glee Club and the music program at Bradford Academy in Haverhill, Massachusetts. She remained in these roles until 1913, when she was appointed Director of Music at Simmons, leading the College’s Glee Club, Choir, and Musical Association for the next five years.

Also in 1913, Daniels began to gain status as a composer when her piece The Desolate City was chosen for presentation at the MacDowell artists’ colony in New Hampshire. The performance was a success, and Daniels spent the next twenty-four summers as a fellow at MacDowell, citing the colony as inspiration for many of her works. When she left Simmons in 1918, she devoted the rest of her life to composing music and experienced considerable success during her lifetime. Daniels wrote a number of orchestral suites and operettas, several of which were arranged for ballet or performed in programs at Boston’s Symphony Hall and New York’s Carnegie Hall. Among her best known works were Exultate Deo (1929), Deep Forest (1939), and The Song of Jael (1940). In 1911, she was honored for her contributions to music by the National Federation of Music Clubs, receiving both the Custer and Brush Memorial Prizes. She was also awarded honorary degrees from Tufts University in 1933 and Boston University in 1939.

Though Daniels seldom voiced her opinions on political matters, she was a proponent of women’s suffrage. She held membership in the Women’s University Club, the Vincent Musical Art Club, and the American Composers’ Alliance, and was also a Unitarian and an active member of Boston’s Arlington Street Church. Throughout her career, Daniels engaged in philanthropic work, donating generously to Tufts and the New England Conservatory of Music and establishing a loan fund at Radcliffe for students majoring in music. She also served as an alumnae trustee of Radcliffe in the 1940s and sometimes acted as an adviser for music education in the Boston Public Schools.

Daniels died of pneumonia in Boston in March of 1971. She is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, near her parents. Her papers are held at Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library.


Library of Congress


“Mabel Wheeler Daniels
Director of Music,” Suffrage at Simmons, accessed April 22, 2024,

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