JC / Railbird

Plucky Mrs. Bagwill

In advance of a possible piece on the Lady Legends race, in which eight retired female jockeys will ride in the fourth race at Pimlico on Friday to benefit the Komen Foundation, I’ve been doing a bit of research on women jockeys in American racing. With the library packed up in preparation for a move, making it difficult to get to “The Lady Is a Jock” and other sources, I’m relying on what I can find through Google, the New York Times, and the DRF Archive at Keeneland, which yielded an interesting tidbit about an early “jockette.”

In January, I came across Miss Milfred, a young woman looking for work as a jockey in 1892 Chicago. Nothing more has turned up on Frances Milfred, but in 1898, there appears a Mrs. Bagwill. Notes the DRF of October 4:

Probably the only female jockey in the world is riding in running races on the Pacific Coast circuit. She is a Mrs. Bagwill, twenty-four years old, weight 101 pounds, and resides at Carson City, Nev. At the recent Nevada State Fair she won two of her five mounts. Mrs. Bagwill wears the regulation jockey costumes in races and rides astride.

Mrs. Bagwill, female jockey, 1898The October 9, 1898 Kansas City Journal fills in a few more details, although, not her first name:

Six horses, straining every nerve and splendidly ridden by some of the best jockeys of this country, raced swiftly around the track at Reno, Nev., at the last meeting, and came down the stretch in magnificent style. Of the three horses first under the wire the last was ridden by a woman who, sitting astride, plied whip and spur in masterly style, and clearly outrode her competitors.

The woman was Mrs. Bagwill, a native of Nevada, who is probably the only female jockey in the world.

Her experience as a jockey has not been very extensive, but of the five races in which she has ridden twice has her horse come in a winner, and never has she ridden “outside” the money.

Mrs. Bagwill’s first attempt was at Carson City, when she rode third to Coates, sometimes known as “Pizen,” and Feathergill.

Mrs. Bagwill is 24 years of age and has been married for five years. She is of medium stature, petite in figure, but well proportioned and weighs 101 pounds. She is very modest and unassuming. When on the street, she dresses in plain black and from her appearance none would imagine that she ever assumed the part of a jockey.

She had an ambition to assist her husband, and being a good rider, decided that she could be more successful as a jockey than at anything else. In the saddle when ready for a race she wears bifurcated skirts, but fitting neatly.

And with that, Mrs. Bagwill, like Miss Milfred, recedes from history.