Mary Shields First Woman to Complete Iditarod Race How she acquired her first dog team will surprise you

Happy Trails and Happy Tales from Iditarod Racer, author, adventurer and storyteller, Mary Shields.

Mary Shields entered the Iditarod in 1974 being the first woman to complete the Iditarod race.

I came to Alaska in 1965 to work for the Camp Fire Girls as a counselor.  When the summer was over I returned to Wisconsin.  I kept repeating Robert Service’s last line in his poem, ‘And I want to go back—and I will.’  And I did.  And I’ve never left.

I was born a city girl.  But I wanted to live what Henry David Thoreau talked about in his books so I lived in the rugged wilderness where I learned and loved to mush with a dog team.

‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.’—Henry David Thoreau

I was told I would never make it.  One man yelled at me, ‘You’d better turn around now. You’ll never make it to Nome!’  But I did.

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Iditarod Racer Turned Storyteller

Mary Shields turned her positive imprint of opening the door for other women to enter male dominated races into another positive imprint.  She began a successful writing career, authoring several children’s books that are Alaska’s classics.

“Can Dogs Talk?”  and “Secret Messages-Training a Happy Dog” are a couple of her books.  The illustrator is Donna Gates. Her other book, “Sled Dog Trails” captures her Alaskan dog team and wilderness experiences.

Mary continues to run the team.  She also loves organic gardening.  Her roof is a sod roof which insulates her home.

…and another positive imprint is sharing her stories and educating tourists.  She invites tourists to visit her dogs and to learn about caring for dog teams.  She shares her tales from the trails through her charismatic storytelling.

I lived in the wilderness to really experience what Thoreau was talking about.  My adventures began when the conductor held onto my hand as I jogged along and when he thought I had my balance he let go.

Sometimes people go off on these adventures and nobody ever sees them again and I was a perfect candidate for not being seen again.

My friends delivered three dogs to me on the train to help pull the sled for my chores.    The dogs arrived with a special note of instructions.

Listen to the podcast to hear what that note said and how Mary began her legacy in dog sled racing.

Listen to the podcast and learn more about Mary’s positive imprints.

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Listen to the podcast and learn more about Mary’s positive imprints.  What’s Your P.I.?

Please leave a positive review after listening to the podcast.  Thank  you!

The Iditarod

The Iditarod takes place in March and it is about 1,000 miles long.  Visit the website to see maps and learn more about this historical trail.  Click the icon below to learn more about the Iditarod.

Joe Redington, Tom Johnson and Gleo Hyuck pushed to organize the Iditarod.  Redington had two reasons for the long-distance mushers’ race.  The first reason was to save the sled dog culture and the Alaskan Huskies.   Both were being replaced with the introduction of the snowmobiles.  The second reason was to preserve the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome.

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Partial Transcript

Mary Shields entered the Iditarod in 1974 being the first woman to complete the Iditarod race.

"I came to Alaska in 1965 to work for the Camp Fire Girls as a counselor.  When the summer was over I returned to Wisconsin.  I kept repeating Robert Service’s last line in his poem, 'And I want to go back—and I will.'  And I did.  And I've never left."

"I was born a city girl.  But I wanted to live what Henry David Thoreau talked about in his books.  So I lived in the rugged wilderness where I learned and loved to mush with a dog team."

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."—Henry David Thoreau

"I was told I would never make it.  One man yelled at me, 'You’d better turn around now. You’ll never make it to Nome!'  But I did.”

Mary Shields turned her positive imprint of opening the door for other women to enter male dominated races into another positive imprint.  She began a successful writing career, authoring several children’s books that are Alaska’s classics.  "Can Dogs Talk?"  and "Secret Messages-Training a Happy Dog" are a couple of her books.  The illustrator is Donna Gates.  

Her book, "Sled Dog Trails" captures her Alaskan dog team and wilderness experiences.

Mary continues to run the team.  She also loves organic gardening.  Her roof is a sod roof which insulates her home.

…and another positive imprint is sharing her stories and educating tourists.  She invites tourists to visit her dogs and to learn about caring for dog teams.  She shares her tales from the trails through her charismatic storytelling.

"I lived in the wilderness to really experience what Thoreau was talking about.  My adventures began when the conductor held onto my hand as I jogged along and when he thought I had my balance he let go.”

“Sometimes people go off on these adventures and nobody ever sees them again and I was a perfect candidate for not being seen again.”

"My friends delivered three dogs to me on the train to help pull the sled for my chores.    The dogs arrived with a special note of instructions."

Listen to the podcast to hear what that note said.

Listen to the podcast and learn more about Mary’s positive imprints.  What’s Your P.I.?

Subscribe to my podcast at iTunes Apple Podcast or your favorite podcast platform.  Sign up to receive my email updates.  Please leave a positive review after listening to the podcast.  Thank  you!

The Iditarod 

The Iditarod takes place in March and it is about 1,000 miles long.  Visit the website to see maps and learn more about this historical trail.  Click the icon below to learn more about the Iditarod.

Joe Redington, Tom Johnson and Gleo Hyuck pushed to organize the Iditarod.  Redington had two reasons for the long-distance mushers’ race.  The first reason was to save the sled dog culture and the Alaskan Huskies.   Both were being replaced with the introduction of the snowmobiles.  The second reason was to preserve the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome.  

6 Comments

  1. Mary Lanier on 01/07/2019 at 4:51 AM

    I love this story. Mary Shields is an amazing person. Great interview. I listened to it through the website and enjoyed the pictures as well.

    • Catherine on 01/07/2019 at 7:44 PM

      Thank you so much for listening. Yes, Mary Shields is very amazing. I so much enjoyed spending time with her. She’d love to hear from you too. She can be found at MaryShields.com You will find her delightful!

    • Catherine on 01/24/2019 at 3:23 AM

      Mary,
      I am so glad you enjoyed the website photos that I posted. Maybe some day you can travel to Fairbanks and meet Mary Shields in person! She is delightful. Thank you for listening and supporting my podcast. Catherine

  2. Liz Toelle on 01/19/2019 at 3:21 PM

    What a great interview Catherine. Mary Shields should be shared with young girls and women everywhere. And to end with the dogs howling – AWESOME.

    • Catherine on 01/24/2019 at 3:14 AM

      Liz,
      I agree with you and I hope the podcast will reach beyond Alaska! When I was in the classroom the students learned about Mary Shields and of course Mary and I worked on lesson plans together. That was such a fun opportunity for me. Thank you so much for your support!!

  3. Mary Shields on 08/07/2019 at 5:30 AM

    Thanks Catherine, I enjoyed your interview too! i appreciate and respect that you worked to get the facts correct., perhaps a little bit of exaggerated adjectives, but i Ihank you for
    your kind memories of our time together.
    Your facts are true, but as a mentor of mine, GinnyWood, once said, “‘i was just in the right place at the right time.”

    I look forward to your future podcasts. I will be inspired by the other folks YOU have been at the right place and right time, to share with us.

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