Nontraditional Careers For Women – Female Jockeys Gaining Ground

The first thing I can remember wanting to be when I grew up was a jockey. Well, that obviously didn't happen, but I do wish there was a "fantasy jockey" camp, similar to what they have for baseball – I'd be the first to sign up!

Being a jockey was a nontraditional career for a woman when I was a kid, and it still is today. About 10% of professional thoroughbred jockeys are women; the Department of Labor defines a nontraditional field for women as one in which 25% or less of those employed are female.

As in other male-dominated fields, the women who pioneered in racing faced many challenges. The first woman jockey to ride in a pari-mutuel race was Diane Crump, in February 1969 at Hialeah, but she wasn't the first to try. When Penny Ann Early attempted to enter three races at Churchill Downs in 1968, she was prevented from riding because the other jockeys boycotted the races. Barbara Jo Rubin faced not only boycotts, but a bricks thrown through her trailer window, when she entered a race at Tropical Park in January of 1969. However, Rubin did become the first female jockey to win a race on February 22 of that year when she won at Charles Town. Rubin was forced to retire about a year later due to injuries; However in her brief career of 89 races she won 22 times and was in the money 20 more times. Diane Crump made history again in 1970 when she became the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby. She won over 230 races before she retired in 1985.

Although the number of women jockeys is still quite low, they race in a very different environment than the pioneering women jockeys did. The first women jockeys faced the prejudice and hostility of their male colleagues, who did not want women racing against them. The men would sometimes cut them off or commit other violations, which were ignored by the race officials. They would even slash them with their whips! (The irony of this is that one of the concerns of the male riders was that they felt racing was too dangerous and the women would get hurt!)

Diane Crump was invited to compete in a match race in Puerto Rico. The male jockey riding against her did everything he possibly could to unseat her from her mount, including grabbing her saddle cloth, knocking her foot from the stirrup, and grabbing her reins. Crump fought back by cracking him on the head with her whip, but he wound up winning the race by a length. However, the women in the crowd cheered Diane and cursed and threw rotten tomatoes at the male jockey!

The early women jockeys also faced opposition from the jockeys' wives, who were uncomfortable that the women would see their men in various states of undress, even though dressing quarters were separate. As a matter of fact, there were no women's dressing quarters – …