A Decomposition Series

Past Issues






#6 is a list of Washington, DC punk women that
recorded between 1976-1990

View Printable List:
copyright 2014-23
compiled by Sharon Cheslow
Interrobang?! #6 DE11/IN6
ISSN: 1943-376X
published by Decomposition
1st version July 26, 2014...last updated October 4, 2023
contact decomposition at for additions or corrections

You can also view a different list of women in punk 1975-1980

People have often asked me why there were so few female performers in Washington, DC punk/hardcore prior to 1990. There actually were a lot. To truly understand this situation would take a roundtable brainstorming session between a sociologist, anthropologist, music historian, feminist theorist, and psychologist. For now, the accompanying list will have to suffice. The list documents DC punk XX chromosomes (i.e.-"women") who recorded between 1976-1990, the heyday of DC punk, new wave, post-punk, weirdo avant-garde music, hardcore, noise rock, and indie rock. For the sake of brevity, I’ve lumped all these women under the term “punk,” because the punk scene in DC was relatively small and a lot of us knew each other. There was a division as time went on between “punk” and “hardcore,” especially after around 1981, but in the beginning the main unifier was PUNK ROCK. So there you go.

Now think about “XX chromosomes.” I've used the classification that represents the binary sex difference, of two X chromosomes (XX) associated with females and one X and one Y (XY) associated with males, to highlight stereotypical sex/gender divisions. Keep in mind, not all women are born with XX chromosomes - the XXs I use here symbolize women, and they also reference two aspects of DC punk mythology. What do you get when you remove one of the Xs from the infamous DC punk symbol XXX, derived from DC's three-starred flag? You get XX, or rather XX chromosomes left out of DC punk history. And what do you get when you add an X to the infamous DC hardcore symbol of one X on a hand? You get XX, representing XX chromosomes excluded from DC hardcore. It’s all in the X. X marks the spot.

Women are not a genre. With that in mind, I created the list of punk bands from the late 1970s to 1990 to document bands with at least one female singer or musician from DC. I was in two of those bands - Chalk Circle and Bloody Mannequin Orchestra - in the early 1980s. Ever since those early years, I’ve been interested in researching and documenting punk history. Although I have problems lumping bands together based on gender, since I think it perpetuates a gender division in the way music is discussed, reviewed, and historicized, it’s a fact gender is a type of classification.

The Library of Congress has authorized lists of classifications, and many are based on gender. For example, there is a subject heading of “Women rock musicians,” but men musicians are classified simply as “Rock musicians.” Due to this way of thinking, women musicians are often left out of history unless they’re documented based on gender. Ideally, articles or books on a certain genre or time period of music would include just as many women musicians as men musicians, and recognize gender is fluid, but that’s rarely the case. The genre of 1950s/60s “girl groups” makes sense because these were all-female vocal groups with certain types of harmonies and production values that made them sound identifiable. But otherwise, even though “women” is a classification, women are not a genre.

The list below of DC punk women that recorded between 1976-1990 is published as a Google Doc that can be printed or downloaded.

Most of the following bands performed in Washington, DC, although many members lived and recorded just outside DC, in nearby surrounding Maryland and Virginia. The list doesn’t include female vocal groups such as The Dynettes, The Rootettes, and The Pin-Ups.

In somewhat chronological order:
Overkill: Xyra Harper (vocals) [Xyra was the original singer, and a song she co-wrote while in the band - "Heart Murmur" - was later recorded by The Slickee Boys for their 1977 Separated Vegetables LP on DC’s Dacoit Records]

The Look: Patricia Ragan (vocals), Xyra Harper (vocals, keys) [one of DC’s first punk bands, but they didn’t record with Patricia or Xyra]

Slickee Boys: Martha Hull (vocals)

Afrika Korps: Martha Hull (vocals), Patricia Ragan/Barbara Q. Ribbs/Karen Hoch/Laurie Hoch (backing vocals) [Recorded in Sound Heights, NY, Sound Box, VA, and Twain, NJ in 1977]

The Korps: Martha Hull (vocals) [Martha recorded with this band, made up of ex-Afrika Korps members, in New Jersey in 1978]

Reind Dears: Martha Hull (vocals), Amy Tract (vocals)

D.Ceats: Martha Hull (vocals)

Tina Peel: Deb O’Nair (vocals, organ) [Deb was from DC and band moved to NYC in 1977, recorded for DC’s Dacoit Records and Limp Records in 1978]

Shirkers: Liz DuMais (vocals, guitar), Libby Hatch (vocals, bass)

Tru Fax & the Insaniacs: Diana Quinn (vocals, guitar), Libby Hatch (bass)

Nurses: Sherry Deatrick (vocals, keys), Kathy/Cathy Hutzell (drums)

Urban Verbs: Linda France (bass, keys)

Tiny Desk Unit: Susan Mumford (vocals)

Chumps: Lana Zabko (sax), Lisa Mednick (sax, backing vocals), Ann Hoback (backing vocals), Nancy Ottati (backing vocals)

No Joe: Ann Hoback (bass)

The Pin-Ups: Sandy Little (vocals), Liz DuMais (vocals, guitar), Amy Tract aka Amy Tractenberg (vocals, guitar), Lisa Mednick (sax, keys) [different band than the vocal girl-group Pin-Ups, who were also from DC and then moved to NYC...this other Pin-Ups had a male drummer and never recorded]

Rhoda and the Bad Seeds: Samantha Peterson (vocals, guitar)

Cancer Girls: Clair Kearney (vocals), Samantha Peterson (guitar)

The Trend: Sue Anello (vocals, keys)

Type-O: Ann Berry (vocals) [not sure if they ever recorded]

The Beex: Christine Gibson (vocals)

Loverspike: Trixie Laredo (vocals)

Teresa Gunn Group: Theresa Gunn (vocals) [more rock than punk]

Fuzztones: Deb O'Nair (organ) [Deb co-founded this band in NYC in 1980 - see Tina Peel note]

Citizen 23: Elaine Barnes (vocals, organ) [moved to DC from Williamsburg, VA in 1980]

Velvet Monkeys: Elaine Barnes (vocals, organ) [Elaine was on 1981-1984 recordings, before the band moved to NYC in 1986], Julia Cafritz (guitar) [Julia recorded with them in NYC in 1990]

Half Japanese: Lana Zabko (sax), Lisa Mednick (keys), Rebby Sharp (guitar) [Half Japanese were originally from Uniontown, MD, but played often in DC...Lana and Lisa lived in DC, Rebby was from Richmond, VA’s Orthotonics, and they recorded periodically with Half Japanese between 1981-1985]

REM/Egoslavia: Pam Lewis (vocals, organ, melodica, guitar), Sally Ven Yu Berg (vocals, drums) [they were called REM in the beginning, but changed their name to Egoslavia due to the REM in Athens]

The Dark: Sarah Burke (vocals, guitar), Meredith Hardy aka Meredith Colburn (vocals, guitar) [recorded for Limp Records, but were more rock than punk]

Young Professionals: Regina Gabriel Esposito (vocals)

Martha Hull and the Steady Jobs: Martha Hull (vocals)

Beth Emmerling and the Suburban Guerrillas: Beth Emmerling (vocals)

Cortex Revenge: Debby Graham (vocals, guitar)

Red C: Leo (guitar - full name was Leonore Feinglass?), Toni Young (bass) [Leo was in the first incarnation of band, but didn't record]

Peer Pressure: Toni Young (bass)

Dove: Toni Young (bass) [initially the band’s name was ENB, which stood for Eric's New Band]

Chalk Circle (all-female): Mary Green (vocals, guitar), Sharon Cheslow (vocals, guitar), Anne Bonafede (drums), Jan Pumphrey/Tamera Lyndsay/Chris Niblack (different bass players) [Anne had been in The Vomettes before Chalk Circle, but they never recorded, Chris performed/toured with No Trend after Chalk Circle, but didn't record with them]

SHE (all-female): Claudia Summers (vocals, guitar), Sally Ven Yu Berg (vocals, drums), Tamera Lyndsay (vocals, bass, percussion, guitar), Laura Kennedy (vocals, bass) [formed 1982 when Laura and Claudia came to DC from NYC for a hiatus, Sally and Tamera moved to NYC with rest of band in 1983]

Bloody Mannequin Orchestra: Sharon Cheslow (vocals, guitar, drums, bass, casio, tapes)

Hate From Ignorance: Monica Richards (vocals)

Underground Soldier: Helen Danicki (vocals)

Wurm Baby/Grand Mal: Linda LeSabre (drums) [same line-up, different band names]

Nuclear Crayons: Lara Lynch aka Lynch Lavoison (vocals)

Hyaa!: Alice Despard (vocals, guitar, synth)

Made For TV: Candy Wroth (bass) [DC/NYC band]

On Beyond Zebra/Betty (all-female): Amy Ziff (vocals, cello), Bitzi Ziff (vocals, keys, percussion), Alyson Palmer (vocals, bass) [more experimental or alternative rock than punk]

French Are From Hell: Ginger Chittenden (vocals) [band evolved out of the Young Turds, Ginger also recorded with DC funk rock band Wicked Witch]

Baby Opaque: Peggy Tully (backing vocals)

Press Mob: Spyche (vocals)

Platinum Slugs: Jean Owens (keys), Tina Pafenberg (drums), Spyche (guest bass)

Nike Chix (all-female, with guest male drummers): Yasmine Rassam (vocals, guitar), Susan Courtney/Kim Severs (vocals), Selena Robinson (vocals, bass), Ana Haworth (drums), Mary Diaz (drums-after Ana, guitar-after Yasmine) [members of The Obsessed recorded with them]

Sybil (all-female): Selena Robinson (vocals), Melany Holman (vocals, guitar), Mary Diaz (guitar), Catherine Brayley (vocals, bass), Tina Pafenberg (drums)

Mourning Glories: Lida Husik (vocals, guitar, organ)

Sex on TV: Debbie Osbourn (vocals)

Indoor Life: Sally Ven Yu Berg (drums, backing vocals) [Sally recorded with this NYC band in 1985, and also performed with Information Society - see SHE note]

Earth Hell Band: Oma Lynch aka Lara Lynch (vocals, timbales, drums, drum machine, effects)

Pussy Galore: Julia Cafritz (vocals, guitar), Christina Martinez (vocals, guitar, organ) [formed 1985 in DC, moved to NYC in 1986...both Julia and Christina were from DC, and Christina joined after the band’s move to NYC]

Royal Trux: Jennifer Herrema (vocals, guitar) [Jennifer was from DC and formed Royal Trux in NYC in 1987 after she moved there]

Fire Party (all-female): Amy Pickering (vocals), Natalie Avery (guitar), Kate Samworth (bass), Nicky Thomas (drums) [Nicky Thomas had been in In Pieces before Fire Party, but they never recorded, Amy recorded guest vocals with other Dischord bands between 1985-1990: Scream, Beefeater, Gray Matter, 3, Rain, and Girls Against Boys]

Pea Soup: Amy Pickering (vocals)

Broken Siren (all-female): Karen Weiss (vocals, guitar, sax), Caroline Ely (vocals, bass), Max Micozzi (drums)

Fidelity Jones: Max Micozzi (drums) [Max was in the first incarnation of this band]

Madhouse: Monica Richards (vocals)

Strange Boutique: Monica Richards (vocals)

Death Ride 69: Linda LeSabre (drums) [Linda moved to Los Angeles and formed this band in 1988]

Esmirelda: Esmirelda (vocals, guitar, percussion, ukulele)

Hazmat: Christina Billotte (vocals, bass), Kathy Cashel (guitar), Melissa Berkoff (drums)

Autoclave (all-female): Christina Billotte (vocals, bass), Mary Timony (vocals, guitar), Nikki Chapman (vocals, guitar), Melissa Berkoff (drums)

Honeymoon Killers: Christina Martinez (vocals, guitar), Sally Barry (drums) [Christina recorded with this NYC band in 1988 - see Pussy Galore note]

Boss Hog: Christina Martinez (vocals) [formed in NYC in 1989 - see Pussy Galore note]

Jawbox: Kim Coletta (bass)

Choke: Jenny Toomey (vocals, guitar)

Geek: Jenny Toomey (vocals, guitar), Lillian Daniel (bass)

Red Emma: Lida Husik (vocals, guitar)

Juliana Luecking Experience: Juliana Luecking (vocals) [spoken word]

Velocity Girl: Bridget Cross (vocals 1989-1990), Sarah Shannon (vocals after Bridget)

Holy Rollers: Max Micozzi (vocals, drums)

Senator Flux: Kathy Cashel (guitar, oboe, sax)

Black Tambourine: Pam Berry (vocals) [formed in 1989, but didn't record until 1991]

Action Swingers: Julia Cafritz (guitar) [Julia co-founded this NYC band in 1989 - see Pussy Galore note]

STP (all-female): Jacqui Nimitz (vocals, guitar), Julia Cafritz (guitar), Melissa Huffsmith (guitar), Sally Barry (drums) [Julia co-founded this NYC band in 1990 and she and Jacqui were only members from DC area - see Pussy Galore note]

Teenage Gang Debs: Erin Smith (vocals, guitar) [recorded in 1990]

Tsunami: Jenny Toomey (vocals, guitar), Kristin Thomson (vocals, guitar) [formed in 1990, but didn’t record until 1991]

Desiderata: Amanda MacKaye (vocals) [formed in 1990, but didn’t record until 1991]

My New Boyfriend: Jenny Toomey (vocals, guitar), Tobi Vail (drums) [Jenny recorded with this Olympia, WA band while she was there in Fall 1990, Tobi moved to DC with Bikini Kill in 1991]

NOTE: This list documents bands that existed during the time I lived in the Washington, DC area, where I had moved with my family in 1967 from Los Angeles. After I moved to San Francisco in 1990, I stopped keeping track of as much DC music activities. I collaborated with some of the members of Bikini Kill and Bratmobile (who had moved to DC from Olympia, WA in 1991) during my visit to DC in summer 1991, but otherwise I don't know as much about what happened in DC post-1990. 1990 is an arbitrary cut-off point in some sense, but it also marks the end of the 1980s punk/post-punk/hardcore era. In 1991 the A Wonderful Treat cassette compilation was released, documenting some of the DC/Olympia collaborations (Bratmobile, Suture, Wondertwins).

Thanks to the following for extra help in completing the list:
Xyra Harper, Martha Hull, Howard Wuelfing, Diana Quinn, Lisa Mednick Powell, Sue Anello, Don Fleming, Tamera Lyndsay, Julie Cafritz, Peter Muise, Manolo Lagdameo, Dan Joseph, Mary Diaz, Amy Pickering, Nicky Thomas, Max Micozzi, Cynthia Connolly, Esmirelda, Erin Smith, Kristin Thomson, Vin Novara, Dean Spunt, and Lara Connally.

Thanks also to the :30 Under DC website:

© Sharon Cheslow
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