Saturday, March 8, 2008

My Contribution to Women's Progress (debatable)

Being International Women’s Day thought it would be fitting to tell some of my story scaling the bastions of male dominance.

In 1971 I won a trip to the Melbourne Cup being a finalist in the regional section of the Fashions of the Field Competition. Whilst at the cup was wandering around as I am wont to do observing this and that. I was very nonplussed when held by the arm by a gentleman with authority and in my dreams a military uniform who informed me to remove myself. Being the bush girl I was and at an age when would not take a backward step, alas how life has battered and bent me since then and have taken many a backward step, refused and wanted to know why. “Well girlie you have crossed the white line”…..”What white line?” “THE white line where only the serious punters are allowed”…”whose to say I am not a serious punter” “you’re a female and only males are allowed to be here” Did I dream this?
WELL was I irate being a bush girl lived most of my life on an equal footing with men having nothing but brothers and could hold my own in the stock camp. I remember the feeling well the injustice and the embarrassment of just being a woman. I know I would not have ventured in this hallowed precinct if I had known it was a no no but felt very small and awkward being removed with this man holding my upper arm in a forceful grip. I restrained myself from giving him a bunch of fives as I was at that time prone to do and meekly allowed myself to be manhandled. Roll on International Woman’s Day.

The following year in Queensland it was decided that women could ride racehorses in all women races. I was invited to ride at the Cairns Amateurs in one of the first ever allowed for women in Australia. The first was held at Eagle Farm shortly before this event at the Amateurs in Cairns.
Firstly had to ride in barrier trials out of barriers. Had ridden racehorses in the bush with a standing start practising as no one about in the bush to tell me not to and anyway no one would have been game as was quite feisty. The stewards, who control the integrity of racing and at that time I did not recognize the authority and power of them as frankly did not know, one of which the stewards that is asked me had I ridden out of a barrier previously and I looked him straight in the eye and thought to myself are you as stupid as you look where in the hell would I have ever ridden out of a barrier not being allowed you dill, and I answered “Yes of course” as you do when you are confronted with such a question. I thought to myself how bad could this be no worse than chasing a scrubber in the bush could not be worse the only thing was the little saddle oh never mind I thought I have ridden bareback a good portion of my young life as shared a saddle with two brothers. OK rode in the trials and did not come off thank goodness but that was getting a little cocky. Then came the part where had to ride track work on a terrible puller whom I was allocated to ride in this famous race. Well the mongrel went like the clappers and could imagine women can never hold a racehorse and the whispers at the training sheds. Hey I had never ridden on a racetrack except once a year bush tracks scraped out of the bush and not in a race ride just a little track work what would you expect. I thought I will pull you up you bugger and headed to the outside of the track and no one thought to tell me that the long molasses grass at the outside of the track covered a drainage ditch and me and the horse somersaulted over the drain. Very impressive. I refused to be embarrassed did not think about the bruises and sore limbs and ploughed ahead for the race, which was given much publicity; photographs of girl’s bums stuck up in the air on the horses with much merriment on how different from the skinny a….sed regulars. We all soldiered on experiencing the ridicule with smiles. Can you imagine a mob of apprentice jockeys first ride in a race every single one with the exception of a couple who had had the benefit of the ride at Eagle Farm never ever having ridden in a race before. What a sight. I and some of my cohorts were a woeful sight and my younger brother said it was embarrassing. I was ecstatic as even thought were pretty bad had broken the barrier and got through the whole process without going to water.

We arrived at the barriers and the horse beside me was trying to get under the barriers and the rider a lovely girl from Victoria was very pale especially after the barrier attendant let slip that the horse was know for its bad manners in the barrier. I guess we should have been grateful that the owners and trainers even allowed the horses to participate.

June an experienced horse woman from Victoria won the race or at least her horse did and after the race had photographs taken and I did get a lot of publicity at the time as had won the Fashions of the Field the year before and was a little mortified about this as know my showing in the women’s race was not very impressive at all but I did it!!


Blogger whiteangel said...

Hello Elizabeth,
A lovely story. All your stories are :)
Take care,

March 11, 2008 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger Lizzie's Insomnia said...

Thank You Margaret....and have a lovely day
Kind regards, Elizabeth

March 13, 2008 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger lil harry said...

Great memories!!

I remember being called a 'girlie' once in a tone..not very nice..

Funny how the men could only be serious punters and least things have evened out somewhat .

love the horse racing!! what an experience!!

March 16, 2008 at 2:21 AM  
Blogger Lizzie's Insomnia said...

Hi lil harry,
They are great memories and to me is like yesterday....yes the "girlie" tag is a put down. Glad you enjoy the horse racing...Kind regards, Elizabeth

March 16, 2008 at 7:48 PM  
Blogger Rudy's Blog said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Great story as usual. If ever you are in Sydney you're more than welcome to come to Rosehill Gardens race course and you can walk where ever you want :).

Have a wonderful Easter.



March 22, 2008 at 8:36 AM  

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