On This Day in Herstory, August 25th 1804, at York Racecourse in York, England, Alicia Thornton became the first female jockey.
Thornton was the first female jockey ever recorded, and she rode two races against men, both at the August Races at York Racecourse. The first race was on this day in 1804, and it was run over four miles with over 100,000 spectators. Thornton ran against Mr. Flint, who was allegedly her brother-in-law. She rode the race side-saddle and was in the lead for the first three miles of the race. In the final mile of the race Thornton’s horse fell lame, and Flint won the race very easily.
The second race was run a year later, on August 24th 1805. This time she rode against Frank Buckle, and again rode side-saddle. Buckle lead for the first few lengths of the race, but Thornton ultimately won by half a neck. Thornton’s win was hailed by the thousands of onlookers who gathered to watch her race again.
As is the nature with women’s herstory, not much is known about Alicia Thornton, even her name is debatable. In some reports she is listed as Alicia Meynell (often confused with the famous poet Alice Meynell), but she is also referred to as Mrs Thornton, Alicia Massingham, or Mrs T. In one report she is said to have been 22 years old, and as being the daughter of a Norwich watchmaker called Meynell. However, there is no record of any watchmaker in or around Norwich at the time. One report called Mr. Flint her brother-in-law. There is no evidence that anyone named Alicia was married to her reported husband Colonel Thornton, and Colonel Thornton was married in 1806 just one year after ‘Alicia Thornton’s’ second race. We may never know who exactly the first female jockey was, but on this day, she made herstory.