Author to Speak at WWU about his Great Grandmother, a Pioneer Horsewoman

Josephine Clay— a Fulton native and the first woman to own and manage a thoroughbred horse farm in the United States—will be the topic of a speech by her great grandson Thursday, Sept. 22, at William Woods University.


Author Henry Clay Simpson Jr. will present an illustrated talk at 12:45 and 7 p.m. in the Library Auditorium. His speech will be based upon his new book, “Josephine Clay—Pioneer Horsewoman of the Blue Grass.”


After reading her scrapbook, Simpson, supported by the Horse Park of Kentucky and the University of Kentucky, began the research that culminated in his new book, a museum exhibit and a film featured this summer on public television in Kentucky. His story was compiled from his great grandmother’s novels and stories and previously unpublished family letters and photographs.


Josephine Russell Clay was born in 1835 in Fulton, Mo., the daughter of Col. William H. Russell, a frontier lawyer, state representative from Callaway County and a U.S. marshal from Missouri. She lived a fascinating life witnessing the settling of California and the turmoil of the Civil War as a nurse at the siege of Vicksburg.


She married a grandson of the famous Kentucky senator Henry Clay. Her husband was killed at Vicksburg and she later married Clay’s youngest son.


When she inherited the Clay’s family farm near Lexington, Ky., she became the first woman to own and manage a thoroughbred horse farm in the United States. She became a national advocate for giving women opportunities in the professions and her popular novels featured women who overcame personal problems to achieve success in difficult careers.


The program, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society and the William Woods University Division of Equestrian Studies.