Elizabeth Williams Berry

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Mother Berry
Mother Berry in 1967
Mother Berry in 1967
Full nameElizabeth Williams Berry
Other namesJack Williams
NicknameMother Berry
OccupationJockey, Horse trainer
Born(1854-06-21)June 21, 1854
Melbourne, Australia
DiedMarch 26, 1969(1969-03-26) (aged 114)
Helena, Montana, US
NationalityAustralian/American
SpouseJ.B. Berry
Childrenone (adopted)
Height5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
WeightRode at 96 lb (44 kg)
Career winsc. 4200
Honors
Mother Berry Memorial Handicap, Helena Montana racetrack 1968-1976

Elizabeth Williams Berry (June 21, 1854 – March 26, 1969), who became known as Mother Berry some time after 1900, was an Australian-born jockey who rode in multiple nations disguised as a man, using the name Jack Williams. After moving to the United States about 1900, she married, and gained the nickname "Mother" after being granted custody of a runaway boy. She retired from jockeying to become a horse trainer. Berry and her husband settled in Helena, Montana, where, at age 111, she was declared the oldest person in Montana at the time. She lived to see women ride as licensed jockeys in 1969 and died at age 114.

Biography[edit]

Berry's family were Welsh and had settled in Australia.[1] She was born in Melbourne on 21 June 1854.[1] Berry started racing horses at age six.[2] Her father provided tutors to come to her home twice a week to provide for Berry's education.[2] Her first racing win was at age 10, when she placed first on the Moonee Valley Racecourse.[1] She started racing professionally under the name of Jack Williams when she was 13 years old.[3] In order to look the part of a boy, she wore traditional racing silks on the track, and off the track donned a Bowler derby and smoked cigars.[4] She went on to race, disguised as a man, for more than 24 years as a jockey in Australia, England, France, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa.[1][5][6] During her jockeying career, she was 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m) and weighed 96 pounds (44 kg).[5] She told the Independent-Record that she won around 4,200 races during her career.[4]

American career[edit]

Berry arrived in the United States about 1900, and initially rode races in Northern California.[1] She met her future husband, veterinarian J.B. "Doc" Berry, in Seattle, and they married six weeks later on 21 June 1903.[1][7] A judge in Colorado gave her the nickname "Mother" when awarding her legal custody of a runaway boy she had taken in and taught horse racing skills.[3] Berry retired from riding horses in 1911.[1] After her jockeying career was over, she continued to work with racehorses as a trainer.[6]

The Berrys moved to Helena, Montana, in 1913 and made the town their permanent residence.[1] Berry raced horses on the Montana racing circuit and named several of them after her husband.[8] Doc Berry died in 1927.[1] In Helena, Mother Berry lived in a house at the Montana State Fairgrounds until 27 April 1937, when her home was destroyed by a fire.[2] After the fire, she lived in a house on the local cemetery grounds for a few years.[2] In 1956, she moved into the Stewart Homes project in Helena, where she lived for the remainder of her life, remaining independent well after her 100th birthday.[8] In 1965, at age 111, she was declared the oldest person in Montana.[6] In 1966, she was made an honorary member of the Capital City Horse Racing Association.[9]

In February 1969, a few days before the groundbreaking ride of Diane Crump as the first woman in America to ride openly as a licensed female jockey in a parimutuel race, the Lexington Herald-Leader reviewed the history of women riding as jockeys, describing Berry as "probably the only lady jockey to compete successfully against men for any length of time."[10] Berry died in her home in Helena on 26 March 1969.[11] She was buried in Resurrection Cemetery.[12] In Helena, a horse race named in her honor, The Mother Berry Memorial, ran during the 1970s.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Mother Berry, Queen of the Turf, Makes First Plane Trip at 92". Montana Standard. June 25, 1946. Archived from the original on July 6, 2019. Retrieved July 6, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ a b c d "Mother Berry Who Raced Horses Across the Globe, Celebrates 97th Birthday Down at Race Track". The Independent-Record. July 1, 1951. Archived from the original on July 6, 2019. Retrieved July 6, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  3. ^ a b Olds, Virginia (June 21, 1964). "'Mother' Berry Is 110 Years Old Today, Recalls Native Australia". The Independent-Record. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. and "'Mother' Berry Will Mark 110th Birthday Today". The Independent-Record. June 21, 1964. p. 8. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  4. ^ a b Hansen, Ben (June 21, 1967). "Happy Birthday". The Independent-Record. p. 1. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. and "Happy". The Independent-Record. June 21, 1967. p. 8. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ a b "Mother Berry, World Jockey, Celebrates 100th Birthday". Great Falls Tribune. June 22, 1954. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ a b c Olds, Virginia (June 20, 1965). "Mother Berry Will Mark 111th Birthday Monday". The Independent-Record. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. and "Mother Berry Will Observe 111th Birthday". The Independent-Record. June 20, 1965. p. 3. Archived from the original on July 9, 2019. Retrieved July 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Mother Berry Dies at 114". The Independent-Record. March 26, 1969. Retrieved July 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ a b "Mother Berry Will Be Honored with Reception on Her 105th Birthday". The Independent-Record. June 21, 1959. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "Ready for the Races". The Independent-Record. September 29, 1966. Archived from the original on July 8, 2019. Retrieved July 8, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Wall, Maryjean (February 2, 1969). "Women Raced in England as Long Ago as 1804". Lexington Herald-Leader. Archived from the original on June 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ "Mother Berry Dies at 114". The Billings Gazette. March 27, 1969. Archived from the original on July 6, 2019. Retrieved July 6, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "Services Set Friday for Mother Berry". The Independent-Record. March 27, 1969. Retrieved July 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com. and "Services". The Independent-Record. March 27, 1969. p. 2. Retrieved July 9, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "Three Feature Races This Evening". The Independent-Record. July 5, 1974. Retrieved July 12, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.