Iditarod 2011: This is not just a boys club–Jonrowe and others are a force on the trail

Every one has a favorite Iditarod musher. Some love the colorful–like the kilt wearing, bag pipe playing Wattie McDonald. Some root for the 4-time reigning champion and his comeback story, Lance Mackey. Others root for the guy that loves talking to kids and sports a Cat in the Hat hat on the trail in Hugh Neff. Gotta love the underdog or the back-of-the-packers and their dreams that they are runnin’ down…

Then there is DeeDee.

One of the most colorful, most decorated and well loved mushers in the history of the sport is DeeDee Jonrowe of Willow, Alaska. We could argue that DeeDee has done more for this sport than any other musher since she became involved in the 1980’s.

Wearing her trademark pink parka on the trail and offering her motherly advice (on occasion) in some of the toughest conditions on Earth, DeeDee is a force to be reckoned with and is admired from even the most burley of guys that ever stood on a set of sled runners.

There have always been women in the sport of dog sledding and besides the names of Butcher, Riddles and Jonrowe, you may not have heard of the others…

Women Mushers

Women in the sport of mushing go back as far back as the beginning of the sport. Renowned mushers such as Louise Lombard, Eva “Short” Seeley and Natalie Norris all come to mind when you think of women in mushing in the early days.  The first women to participate in the Iditarod ran in 1974, the second year of the race. Mary Shields and Lolly Medley, both from Fairbanks, signed up for the race and made it all the way to Nome. They both mushed across the finish line to the surprise of some individuals who felt that women could not tolerate the rigors of the trail.

Libby Riddles of Teller, Alaska, was the first woman to win the Iditarod Trail race on March 20, 1985.  At this moment it opened the floodgates for women in the sport to do well in mushing. Susan Butcher had won the race four times, and DeeDee Jonrowe is the only musher, man or woman, to compete three consecutive times in both the Iditarod and the Alpirod race in Europe. DeeDee has also competed in the IronMan triathlon in Kona, Hawaii.

(March 13, 2011) DeeDee is doing great in the 2011 Iditarod maintaining a firm position in the top ten.

When women mushers take to the trail, they add to the tradition and history of this sport. Their records indicate that they have been able to compete on an equal footing with men, and they have a higher percentage of race completions than men do. Perhaps their determination has been greater than their male counterparts to prove that they can indeed meet the tests of Mother Nature.

Who is your favorite musher on the trail?

Listen to our Iditarod coverage daily on Mush! You Huskies. You can find us on iTunes (search Dog Works Radio) or click on Mushing Radio now.


Robert Forto | Team Ineka | Alaska Dog Works | Mushing Radio | Dog Works Radio | Denver Dog Works | Daily Post

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Robert Forto is a musher training for his first Iditarod under the Team Ineka banner and the host of the popular radio shows, Mush! You Huskies and Dog Works Radio Shows

Photo: akphotograph.com

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  1. Thank you for posting this blog about the women mushers.

  2. Susan Butcher and her husband wrote a children’s book about one of her dogs – Granite. It’s a fantastic book, but so sad that Susan lost her life so early.

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