HerStory March 2020: Libby Riddles

Every year in early March, teams of people and dogs race across the Alaskan landscape for upwards of 1,000 miles, each trying to best the other in the annual Iditarod Dog Sled Race. It began in 1967 as a short race, and was a commemoration of the emergency dog sledding treks to Nome to help battle a diptheria outbreak in 1925. In 1973, the race that has evolved into the current-day Iditarod was first run. Teams consist of a musher (driver) and 12-16 dogs, and, depending on weather and other factors, the Iditarod can take 10-20 days to complete.  

In 1985, Libby Riddles, a 28-year old Alaskan originally from Wisconsin, became the first woman to win the Iditarod, pushing herself and her dogs to drive through absolutely awful conditions to triumph. While many of her fellow mushers hunkered down at a checkpoint to wait out the worst of a massive storm, Libby set out on her trail to victory, and kept up her lead throughout the rest of the race. Her win was so inspiring, not only because she was the first woman to do so, but because she came out on top by being the most courageous musher on the field. Her win catapulted dog sled racing into the mainstream, and inspired countless young women to pursue dreams in the once-typically-male domain. 

Not only a consummate musher, Libby is also an animal-rights activist in the dog-sledding circuit. She won Humanitarian Awards for Best Treatment of Dogs in the Iditarod, the Kusko 300, and the John Beargrease Races (three big dog sled races). She continues to raise and train dogs (her kennel is called Blazing Kennels, and hosts 20-40 dogs at any one time), and she’s written three books about her career: one memoir and two children’s books. She is a public/motivational speaker, and continues to inspire young women with her story of strength and perseverance. 

Our Mush colorway is inspired by the varied colors of the coats on the dogs that pulled Libby to victory all those years ago. Working as a seamless team, musher and dogs traverse unforgiving landscapes over the course of a long and lonely 2-3 weeks. This skein is an homage to those dogs and the woman who pushed them to victory, paving the way for more equity in the sport. We hope you give the sweet doggos in your life behind-the-ear scritches as you knit your Mush socks, and think about the perseverance it took for this brave team of pups and their fearless leader, Libby Riddles, to ride through the storm and win that race.