Campaigning jockey and women’s rights pioneer names own village

Linda Jones at the Ryman retirement village that bears her name in Hamilton's north east.

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Linda Jones at the Ryman retirement village that bears her name in Hamilton’s north east.

Linda Jones has officially opened the Hamilton retirement village named in her honour.

The pioneering Kiwi jockey and campaigner for women’s rights flew to New Zealand from her base in Queensland to officially open the village with Ryman Healthcare’s Group Chief Executive Richard Umbers on Thursday.

Linda said having the village named in her honor was a thrill.

“I’m very proud of it – I still can’t quite believe it. It’s a beautiful complex and it turns out I know some of the residents – and I know how much people enjoy living here and what the staff do for them.

“It’s an unreal feeling, I still have to pinch myself.”

The opening also marked the 45th anniversary of her winning her battle against the New Zealand Racing Conference (NZRC) to compete against men.

Back in the 1970s women were restricted to female-only races known as ‘Powder Puff Derbies.’

Linda, backed by her trainer husband Alan, campaigned to get equal status for women. The NZRC refused, but the passing of a new Human Rights Commission Act in 1977 meant that position was no longer tenable, and she was granted her licence.

She went on to beat the men at their own game, chalking up a whole lot of firsts for women.

Her first attempt to apply for an apprentice license was turned down. The reasons for the refusal included being too old – she was 24, not strong enough, and the fact that she was married.

It took her three years to get the license but finally in 1977 she became the first New Zealand woman jockey to gain the right to race against men.

It was at Te Rapa in 1978 that she notched up her first win, which then led to a flood of historic firsts to be achieved.

Linda Jones, pictured in 1979 during her racing career.

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Linda Jones, pictured in 1979 during her racing career.

Linda was awarded an MBE in 1979 for her contribution to racing and women’s rights.

Richard Umbers said it was an honor to have been able to name the village after Linda.

Linda stands out as a trailblazer for women, a brave and fierce competitor in a tough sport.

She’s a New Zealand icon whose career was forged in this region and we’re incredibly proud to have her name on this village.”

Work started on the $260 million village on River Rd in 2018, and it has been a strong seller, with more than 330 residents living at the village on the banks of the Waikato River.

“It’s gone better than we had ever expected, and the momentum has grown with the community,” Richard said.

The village includes townhouses and apartments, as well as a café, indoor swimming pool, movie theatre, library and billiards room.

Main buildings are named after Linda’s favorite winners, include Holy Toledo and Big Bikkies.

Ryman arrived in Hamilton back in 2002, when it opened its Hilda Ross village.

Last year Ryman Healthcare announced plans to invest another $150 million in a new village west of Cambridge.

The new village, which is on 8.6 hectares of land on Cambridge Road, will be home to more than 300 residents.

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