Los Angeles Times

Peggy Gilbert, 102; blazed a trail for women in jazz
by Dennis McLellan, Times Staff Writer
Published: February 18, 2007

When Peggy Gilbert decided to switch from playing piano to saxophone when she was in high school in Sioux City, Iowa, in the 1920s, she faced resistance: Girls could play violin, piano and harp in the bands, she was told, but they weren't allowed to play wind instruments.

So the jazz-infatuated Gilbert, hot to learn the sax, took lessons from a local bandleader. And a year after high school graduation in 1923, she formed her own all-female jazz band, the Melody Girls.

The group was the first in a string of all-female jazz bands that Gilbert led throughout the 1920s, '30s and '40s, an era in which female musicians were commonly considered inferior to males, and Gilbert became known as a strong advocate for female instrumentalists. Read more...

New York Times

Peggy Gilbert, 102, Dies; Led Female Jazz Ensembles
by Margalit Fox
Published: February 25, 2007

Peggy Gilbert, a noted jazz saxophonist and bandleader who for decades led all-female ensembles in hot jazz, a daring venture when she began her career more than 80 years ago, died on Feb. 12 in Los Angeles. She was 102 and had lived there for many years.

The cause was complications of hip surgery, said Jeannie Pool, a friend. A musicologist and filmmaker, Dr. Pool made a documentary about Ms. Gilbert, "Peggy Gilbert and Her All-Girl Band," narrated by Lily Tomlin and completed last year.

Long before the proliferation of women's bands in the World War II era, and long afterward, Ms. Gilbert presided over a series of jazz groups, performing widely and appearing in Hollywood films like "The Wet Parade" (1932), "Melody for Two" (1937) and "The Great Waltz" (1938). She was also known as an advocate for women trying to make their way in jazz, a culture long hostile to female instrumentalists. Read more...

Time magazine

by Harriet Barovick, Clayton Neuman
Published: February 22, 2007

Peggy Gilbert, 102, pioneering jazz saxophonist and bandleader of the 1920s, '30s and '40s who led her most recent band, the Dixie Belles, until she was in her 90s; in Burbank, Calif. As a jazz-obsessed high school student, she ignored her teachers' insistence that girls should stick to the violin and piano and took sax lessons from a local musician. Gilbert upped her national profile in 1937, when her all-girl band opened the Second Hollywood Swing Concert at Los Angeles' storied Palomar Ballroom, sharing billing with fellow bandleaders Benny Goodman and Louis Prima. Read more...

"'Peggy Gilbert & Her All-Girl Band' is an inspiring, delightful and heartwarming portrait of an indomitable and ageless woman who broke through stereotypes and pioneered the way for women musicians everywhere..." find out more...

You can contact Dr. Pool via email at or write her at P.O. Box 8144, La Crescenta, CA 91224-0144.