Monday, April 17, 2017

Women in Sports: Anna Lee Aldred

Anna Lee Aldred - The first female jockey
(April 19, 1921 – June 12, 2006)

Anne Lee grew up around horses and learned to ride when she three years old, and was racing ponies at state fairs and amateur tracks around Colorado and Wyoming while she was still in grade school. As the daughter of a prominent race horse trainer, and with an older brother working as a jockey, it seemed natural to her to look for a career as a rider, even if it other folks didn't think it was appropriate for a young woman in the 1930s.

While she was growing up, her family traveled around the West to different race tracks where her brother would ride the family's prized racehorses. Following in his footsteps, when she turned 18 in 1939 Anna Lee applied for a professional jockey's license from the Agua Caliente Racetrack, a popular racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, that drew people from all over Southern California. The staff tried everything they could think of to keep her out, but since there wasn't any rule expressly forbidding women jockeys they had to let her ride. Like the other jockeys she received a small wooden badge that served as a license, making her the first American woman to work as a professional jockey.

She worked as a jockey for six years, racking up an impressive number of wins. But in 1945, she finally hit her finally height and weight, which was just a bit too tall and heavy to continue working as a jockey. Undaunted, she simply switched horses, so to speak, and became a rodeo rider. She performed impressive stunts on a galloping horse like back bends or standing on a saddle. For her prowess, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1983.

Even after she married and settled down to raise a family, she continued to work with horses. She started a riding school in Southern California, teaching others the joy of horseback riding.

Read more about her in this Denver Post story from last year: "Aldred galloped into history as first female jockey in U.S."

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