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State Seal Kentucky Horse Park
Press Release Date:  March 18, 2005
Contact:  Cindy Rullman, 859-259-4209,

          LEXINGTON, KY (re-released March 18, 2005) After witnessing the establishment of the new state of California and surviving Grant’s siege of Vicksburg, Josephine Russell Erwin Clay became the first prominent Thoroughbred horsewoman in America.  She was the first woman to own and manage a horse farm in the Bluegrass state of Kentucky.   A new exhibition, which will in part honor her achievements as a pioneer horsewoman, will open April 1 at the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky.

           Josephine Clay lived an independent life beyond the constraints of the Victorian era.  In addition to her success in the horse breeding and racing industry, where she helped establish Kentucky as the horse capital of the world (now a $600-million industry), Ms. Clay was a prolific writer of romantic novels, poems and articles. 

          Ms. Clay and her colorful family made a number of marks on history.  She was the daughter-in-law of world-renowned statesman Henry Clay.  Her father, Colonel William Russell, was blamed in news accounts for being the captain of what was described as the worst disaster on the trail to California, the infamous “Donner party.” 

          According to her great grandson, Henry Clay Simpson, Jr., Ms. Clay’s stories “describe her own experiences in which she tried to prove that women, given an equal opportunity, could successfully compete with men and enjoy professional careers.  Her strong women characters illustrate her ideas about equality – that women could be jockeys, military leaders and even lion trainers.” 

         He continued, “I realized after reading her novels that most of her thinking has now been accepted, but during her life time, these ideas were bitterly opposed.”

          The exhibition, Kentucky Bloodlines: The Legacy of Henry Clay, is being offered in association with Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, the Kentucky Historical Society, Keeneland Library, UK Libraries Special Collections, Dr Lindsey Apple at Georgetown College, the Simpson and LaBach families, Jeff Meyer, Sue Andrew and the Lexington Public Library.

          It is the most recent installment by the museum that brought international blockbuster exhibitions Imperial China and All the Queen’s Horses to the United States.  It will run from April 1- October 31.

          For more information, contact Bill Cooke, Director of the International Museum of the Horse, at 859-259-4231,

          A Teacher’s Guide is available on-line at under "What's New" and school groups are encouraged to attend.  Contact Amity Brannock for school group rates, or 859-259-4225.

          Editor’s Note:  If you would like high-resolution digital photos of the exhibition, email your request to


          The Kentucky Horse Park is a working horse farm/theme park and equine competition facility dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse.  The park is an agency of the Kentucky Commerce Cabinet that hosted 913,000 visitors and 80 special events and horse shows in 2003.  The park is located at Exit 120, Interstate 75, just north of Lexington.  The place to get close to horses, the park is open daily March 15 to October 31, and Wednesday through Sunday, November 1 to March 14.



Last updated: Friday, March 18, 2005