piano -- reeds -- brass -- percussion -- strings

"The division of instruments into those associated with femininity and those identified with masculinity is found in many musics of the world, and jazz is no exception....

The power of gender-coding of instruments is palpable in the numbers of women who have worked as professional jazz pianists thorughout the history of the music, despite enduring biases against jazz as an appropriate genre." (New Grove Dictionary of Music, p. 978-9)

The following is a small representation of female musicians who have played on every instrument and in every era and style of jazz.


Mary Lou Williams
Gottlieb Collection *


"Women's training and professional participation on instruments other than piano (or voice) was less visible, but a number of cornetists, trumpet players, and saxophonists were celebrated in the black press in the 1920s." (New Grove Dictionary of Music, p. 979)

  • Margaret Backstrom -- 30s-40s
  • Jane Ira Bloom (b. 1955) -- 80s-current
  • Vi Burnside -- 30s-40s
  • Claire Daly -- 80s-current
  • Fostina Dixon (sax, flute, clarinet) (b. 1953) -- 80s-current
  • Peggy Gilbert -- 30s-40s
  • Vi Redd (b. 1928) -- 50s-60s
  • Betty Sattley Leeds
  • L'Ana Webster -- 30s-40s

Vi Burnside And Her All Stars
(ca 1951)
  • Clora Bryant (b. 1929) -- 30s-90s
  • Consuelo Carter -- 30s-40s
  • Ernestine "Tiny" Davis (1907-1994) -- 30s-40s
  • Jean Davis
  • Ingrid Jensen (b. 1967) -- 90s-current
  • Dyer and Dolly Jones (mother/daughter) -- 20s-30s
  • Billie Rogers -- 30s-50s
  • Jane Sager -- 30s-40s
  • Estelle Slavin -- 30s-40s
  • Valaida Snow, "Queen of the Trumpet" (1903-1956) -- 30s-50s



"Other instruments generally considered 'appropriate' for women during the span of jazz history have included harp, violin, and flute. However, because these have been less accepted as appropriate jazz instruments, such players... have been marginalized in jazz history, despite their acknowledged achievements on these instruments." (New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, p. 979)





  • Lillian Carter -- 40s
  • Lucille Dixon
  • Helene Labarriere -- current
  • Joelle Leandre -- current
  • Carline Ray (b. 1925)
  • Thelma Terry (1901-1966) -- 20s
  • Vi Wilson-- 30s-40s


Regina Carter
All Music Guide

Mary Osborne
All Music Guide