Peggy Gilbert | Jazz saxophonist, 102

Peggy Gilbert, 102, a saxophonist who helped female jazz musicians gain acceptance during a decades-long career of leading all-women ensembles, died Feb. 12.

She died of complications of hip surgery at a hospital in Burbank, Calif., a friend said.

She was infatuated with the jazz she heard on the radio growing up in Sioux City, Iowa. But when she tried to learn the saxophone in high school, she was told girls could play violin, piano and harp but not wind instruments.

So she turned to a local bandleader for lessons.

A year after graduating from high school in 1923, she formed an all-female jazz band, the Melody Girls, before heading to Los Angeles. It was the first in a string of women's ensembles she led over the next several decades, at a time when jazz culture was often hostile to female instrumentalists.

Her band performed under various names - including Peggy Gilbert and Her Metro Goldwyn Orchestra - at popular nightclubs, sometimes sharing the bill with jazz titans such as Benny Goodman. The band appeared in Hollywood films and toured the vaudeville circuit with George Burns and other stars.

More recently, she was known for the Dixie Belles, a Dixieland band of older women she formed in 1974. The group performed together until 1998, appearing on several TV shows. - AP