Josephine Russell Erwin Clay

Josephine’s first husband, Henry Clay’s grandson, Eugene Erwin was killed in action in the Civil War in 1863 leaving her a Confederate widow in Union occupied Independence, Missouri. Losing a spouse is never easy for anyone, but for women in the early 19th century, it was especially difficult. Widows had little chance to support themselves or their families. Josephine had three children and needed help to survive. She eventually came to Lexington, Kentucky to be housekeeper for Henry Clay’s son John, whom she married a few years later. John was a very successful Thoroughbred breeder and racer, and businessman. When he died, Josephine took over his horse business vowing “to do my best and to rely absolutely on myself—to paddle my own canoe; and if the craft went down to sink with her.” Josephine was ultimately very successful and respected in her own right in the male-dominated equine industry, paving the way for women to be involved in the industry today. 

Later in life, Josephine wrote novels based on her experiences. She also saved many family artifacts and stories. Those artifacts and stories make up a large part of the legacy of Henry Clay today. 

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