Helen Jones Woods, Groundbreaking Female Trombonist, Has Died From COVID-19

Helen Jones Woods, seen here throughout her time in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Kathleen Fallon/Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

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Kathleen Fallon/Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

Helen Jones Woods, seen here throughout her time in the International Sweethearts of Rhythm.

Kathleen Fallon/Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

After the Sweethearts dissolved in 1949, Woods signed up with the Omaha Symphony, only to be fired after her first efficiency. Her dad, who had a darker skin tone, concerned pick her up, which prompted symphony management to understand she was Black. This was the final stroke for Woods, who selected to end her musical profession. She became a signed up nurse, investing the next 30 years committed to nursing and social work.

She was 96. Her child Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of the broadcast media company Urban One, validated the information of her death to NPR.

Helen Jones Woods, who played trombone with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a history-making all-female huge band that visited extensively during World War II, passed away of COVID-19 on July 25 in Sarasota, Fla.

In addition to their pioneering role as females on the jazz circuit, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were an interracial band in the period of Jim Crow. As a Black artist, Woods endured mistreatment and indignity on the roadway. After the Sweethearts dissolved in 1949, Woods signed up with the Omaha Symphony, only to be fired after her very first performance. This was the last straw for Woods, who picked to end her musical profession.

As a Black musician, Woods withstood mistreatment and indignity on the roadway. “Music broke her heart,” says Hughes. “In the 30s and 40s, and even the 50s, which was the last time she played, they would not earn money regularly. They couldnt find real estate lodgings.”

In addition to their pioneering function as women on allure circuit, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm were an interracial band in the era of Jim Crow. Their comprehensive itinerary through the South, where they took a trip by sleeper bus, supposedly influenced jazz piano giant Earl Hines to call them “the very first Freedom Riders.” They also visited Europe, playing in occupied Germany for American soldiers– both black and white, though not at the very same time.

Click here to check out NPRs total obituary for Helen Jones Woods.