Susan Butcher and dogs in 1997, speaking to tourists aboard a Riverboat Discovery cruise from her kennels near Fairbanks International Airport.
August 26, 1954|
|Died||August 5, 2006
|Known for||Sled dog racing|
Susan Howlet Butcher (December 26, 1954 – August 5, 2006) was an American dog musher, noteworthy as the second woman to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1986, the second four-time winner in 1990, and the first to win four out of five sequential years. She is commemorated in Alaska by the Susan Butcher Day.
Life and career
Susan Butcher was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on December 26, 1954, the daughter of Charlie and Agnes Butcher. She preferred the country to the city and spent much of her time at the family cabin in Brooklin, Maine. When she was 8, she wrote an essay for a school assignment entitled I Hate the City.
In her teens, Susan learned carpentry and how to sail. She applied to a boat building school at 16, but she was rejected because she was a woman. Instead, she attended the Warehouse Cooperative School and upon graduation, moved to Boulder, Colorado. There, she met a woman who bred and raced sled dogs. She studied at Colorado State University and ultimately became a veterinary technician. Susan spent her time working as a veterinary technician during the week and racing sled dogs on the weekend.
|1978||19th||16d 15h 40m 30s|
|1979||9th||16d 11h 15m 32s|
|1980||5th||15d 10h 17m 6s|
|1981||5th||12d 12h 45m 24s|
|1982||2nd||16d 4h 43m 53s|
|1983||9th||13d 10h 25m 32s|
|1984||2nd||12d 16h 41m 42s|
|1986||1st||11d 15h 6m 0s|
|1987||1st||11d 2h 5m 13s|
|1988||1st||11d 11h 41m 40s|
|1989||2nd||11d 6h 28m 50s|
|1990||1st||11d 1h 53m 23s|
|1991||3rd||12d 21h 59m 3s|
|1992||2nd||11d 5h 36m 3s|
|1993||4th||10d 22h 2m 40s|
|1994||10th||11d 6h 7m 20s|
In 1973, she read about the inaugural Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in a magazine and decided she wanted to race the Iditarod. In 1975, she moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she lived in a small wood cabin, racing sled dogs and working as a midwife on a musk ox farm in the summers. In 1977, she met Joe Redington, the founder of the Iditarod, and she worked for him for two years in exchange for dogs to compete for her team. Butcher ran her first Iditarod in 1978, and placed 19th. The following year, she placed 9th,, and after the race she and Redington spent 44 days mushing up Mount McKinley and became the first people to mush to the summit of the mountain.
In 1985, she was leading the Iditarod when a moose killed two of her dogs and injured 13 others. The incident caused her to lose her chance to become the first woman to win the Iditarod to Libby Riddles.
In a 1987 interview by Women's Sports and Fitness, she expressed disappointment on losing her chance to be the first woman to win the race, but stated that she would be the first woman to win more than once. She proceeded to win the 1986, 1987, 1988, and 1990 Iditarods.
Susan finished in the Top 10 of 12 of the 14 Iditarods she entered. She held the Iditarod speed record from 1986 until 1992. She also held speed records in the Norton Sound 250, Kobuk 220, Kuskokwim 300, and the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon. In 1995, after 16 years of mushing, she retired her dogs.
Butcher married fellow dog racer David Monson on September 2, 1985; they successfully competed in almost every major sled-dog race in numerous countries around the world.
Her accomplishments gained her substantial media attention in the late 1980s and earned her many awards, including the "National Women's Sports Foundation Amateur Athlete of The Year Award" in 1987 and 1988, and the "Tanqueray Athlete of the Year." She also won the "U.S. Victor Award" for "Female Athlete of the Year" two years in a row. The Anchorage Times named her the Musher of the Decade in 1989, and that same year she was named "Outstanding Female Athlete of the World" by the International Academy of Sports. In 1990 the Amateur Athletic Foundation awarded her one of six regional world trophies. In 2007 Susan was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame as one of the five charter members in the inaugural class.
Illness and legacy
On December 2, 2005 Butcher was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, which had manifested as a blood disorder three years earlier. She underwent chemotherapy at the University of Washington, and received a bone marrow transplant on May 17, 2006 after the cancer went into remission. According to her husband David Monson, "someone said this might be a tough disease, but this leukemia hasn't met Susan Butcher yet."
Butcher died on August 5, 2006 after fighting graft-versus-host disease and learning that the cancer had returned. She is survived by her two daughters, Tekla and Chisana, and her husband, attorney and musher David Monson.
On March 1, 2008, Susan Butcher was honored by the State of Alaska when, just prior to the start of the 2008 Iditarod, Gov. Sarah Palin signed a bill establishing the first Saturday of every March as Susan Butcher Day. The day coincides with the traditional start of the Iditarod each year. Observing the special day, the bill noted, provides opportunity for people to “remember the life of Susan Butcher, an inspiration to Alaskans and to millions around the world.”
- Janet Woolum (1998). "Susan Butcher (dog-sled racer)". Outstanding Women Athletes: Who They Are and How They Influenced Sports in America. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 94–96. ISBN 978-1-57356-120-4. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- "1978 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1979 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1980 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1981 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1982 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1983 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1984 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1986 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1987 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "1988 Iditarod Race Results". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "Susan Butcher Career Summary". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- "Champions and Record Holders — Iditarod". Iditarod Trail Committee, Inc. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
- Talbott, 2005, para. 2–4, 6.
- Talbott, Chris. (December 9, 2005). "Musher diagnosed with cancer". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Retrieved March 8, 2006 from Fairbanks Daily News-Miner site.
- Iditarod Trail Committee Champions and record holders Iditarod Official Site
- Official website
- Iditarod Susan Butcher Memorial Page
- Iditarod musher Susan Butcher has died at 51 Anchorage Daily News, August 5, 2006 This link is no longer active. Request made to publication to reinstate page at that link.
- 4-time Iditarod champion Susan Butcher dies The Boston Globe, August 5, 2006 This link is no longer active. Request made to publication to reinstate page at that link.
- Iditarod festivities begin with tribute to Susan Butcher
- Susan Butcher Day