Rosetta Reitz, an ardent feminist who scavenged through the early history of jazz and the blues to resurrect the music of long-forgotten women and to create a record label dedicated to them, died on Nov. 1 in Manhattan. She was 84.
Ms. Reitz (pronounced rights) came by her interest in jazz through her husband and male friends, but as the feminist movement gathered steam in the 1960s, she noticed something was missing: the musics women. So she started collecting old 78s of performers like the trumpeter Valaida Snow, the pianist-singer Georgia White and a bevy of blues singers who had faded from memory.
At the same time, she unearthed lost songs by more famous artists like Bessie Smith, Ida Cox and Ma Rainey.
In that decade of the 1920s, when jazz was really being formulated and changing from an entertainment music to an art form. These women were extraordinarily important and instrumental in accomplishing that.
Louis Armstrong was a sideman on records in the 20s with singers like Sippie Wallace, Eva Taylor, Hociel Thomas, Virginia Liston and Margaret Johnson. These womens records were made as their records. But when they come out now, theyre reissued as Louis Armstrong records, when actually he was not that important on them.
These women had the power.They hired the musicians and the chorus line, a lot of them wrote the music themselves, and they produced their own shows. They were more than just singers; they were symbols of success.
Music was at first just one element in a busy life. Ms. Reitz was at different times a stockbroker, a bookstore proprietor and the owner of a greeting card business. She was a food columnist for The Village Voice, a professor, a classified-advertising manager and author of a book on mushrooms. She was a founding member of Older Womens Liberation. She reared three daughters as a single parent.