Friday Hoyden: Susan Butcher

This Friday Hoyden is a guest post from huckle. Huckle is a feminist who is slowly turning from resentfully compliant to cheerfully grumpy as she gets older. She is a single mum who works full time. She grows organic vegies, chickens, fruit trees and a terrific five year old hoyden.


Friday Hoyden: Susan Butcher

“I was probably frustrated with the lack of female role models as a child. And wondered why I wanted to do so many things that, at that time, weren’t very typical for a woman to be doing. And so.. I think I had to learn at about fifteen that I was going to have to set my own path.”


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Susan Butcher won the Iditarod trail sled dog race four times in five years, in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1990. She was doing well in 1985, but a moose killed two of her dogs.

The Iditarod is a race through the Alaskan wilderness that is 1800 kms in length. It takes about 10-14 days to complete, and competitors get 1-2 hours sleep a day. They may deal with avalanches, blizzards, minus 75 degree (Celsius, with windchill factor) temperatures, and hallucinations from lack of sleep. One race she and the sled broke through some ice into a river. The lead dogs dragged her out. She then ran the next 16 kms of the race in order to warm up again and stay alive.

On top of this, she dealt with other competitors:-

“…all these men that, jointly, went against me, were individually my good friends. So that was very painful; to have good friends be fine the rest of the year, and treat you as a friend, and yet, when they would get into a racing situation, and get in this buddy system, I was out. I wasn’t even welcome to share the campfires with them. So it was tough. There was a real loneliness in it for me.”

I heartily recommend reading her remarkable story, in her words here.

My aunt was living in Anchorage and volunteering at race checkpoints around the time Susan was winning races. Local bumper stickers and T-shirts read:

Alaska: Where men are men and women win the Iditarod.

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

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1 reply

  1. I remember her winning those races – there was such a strong reaction, and she looked so blissed at winning.

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