In the midst of the women›s rights movement of the 1960s, there was one feminist pioneer who was making inroads not in the office or as part of a protest, but on the track. It was Diane Crump, who on Feb. 7, 1969, climbed aboard a finely tuned Thoroughbred, and exploded out of a starting gate in a sanctioned competition against men, putting a torch to centuries of racing›s dusty rules. War-protesting bell-bottomed youth were spilling onto bicoastal American streets, waving signs and shouting, ˝Hell no, we won›t go!Ø Outraged women, in increasing numbers, were demanding equity in pay and opportunity. More than just the first woman jockey, Crump was also the first woman of only six to date to compete in the Kentucky Derby, a milestone that elicited relatively respectful mention from gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson in his classic piece ˝The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.Ø Crump turned racing completely on its head with a rapid-fire series of firsts, achieved over the span of 15 months.
Things have gotten better since then in the world of horse racing; there are now several dozen female jockeys competing professionally in North America, and while that may seem like little compared to the couple hundred men, the sport might not be so far along as it is had Crump not been insistent in her desire to continue racing. "The mentality in the 1960s was that women weren't smart or strong enough to be jockeys. But I proved that a woman could do the job. "I like to think I was a little footprint on the path to equality."