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Barbara Jo Rubin Biography

Horses—the Sure Cure, The Quest To Be The First, Into The Winner's Circle


American jockey

Barbara Jo Rubin overcame polio as a child and prejudice as an adult to become a pioneer in sports. In 1969 Rubin was a member of the charter class of young women seeking work as professional jockeys—no small accomplishment in Thoroughbred racing, long known as the "sport of kings" and a male-only bastion. In the space of just one year of racing, Rubin accomplished several "firsts" and topped it off by becoming the first female jockey to retire from the track.

Though her parents were Floridians—father Robert Rubin ran the Golden Sands Lounge in Miami—Barbara Jo was born in Illinois, during a visit to Rubin's mother's family. The girl grew up in an atmosphere of diversity, describing her family to the New York Post as "a little bit of everything," British, Jewish, German and other ancestral ties. At age six Rubin contracted polio, a scourge of children in the United States from the 1940s into the '50s, when a vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk finally conquered the spread of the debilitating disease. Fortunately for Rubin, her case was a mild one; the family doctor recommended sports as therapy for the child's affected knees.

Barbara Jo Rubin

Sketch by Susan Salter

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsHorse Racing