First Female Firefighter in the United States (Who Was Also Black)

New York Culture

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March is Women’s History Month, and I'm eager to share interesting stories and details about famous and prominent women in the United States and around the world who contributed to society. One of my favourite topics is discussing the "firsts" - as in people who were pioneers in their fields of work, science, and so on.

Do you know who the first female firefighter in the United States was? What's interesting is she was also an African-American woman. So, we have two "firsts" in the same story: the first woman ever to become a firefighter and also the first Black lady to serve as a firefighter in the USA.

Meet Molly Williams

1818 was the first year when women were allowed to join the emergency services as volunteer firefighters. There was a cholera outbreak in NYC, so the city needed extra help with many services, including the firefighting.

The firefighting department didn't have enough workers, many got sick with cholera, and the weather conditions were far from great. The result? The city officials opened the doors to women. Molly Williams was the first one to sign up.

Molly was an African-American woman and a slave to a merchant Benjamin Aymar. As she joined NYC's firefighting squad, she was referred to as "volunteer #11" - not a great way to address your workers, especially those who save people's lives, if you ask me. Molly Williams did a great job serving her community, especially where the blizzard his New York that year.

Women Firefighters are Scarce

NYC's Fire Department, also known as FDNY, hasn't had another female employee for 164 years until 1982. And only then did the situation change solely because of a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by a New York lawyer.

Molly Williams wasn't just the first female firefighter ever in the United States, in NYC, and among Black Americans; she was the only one to take on such a dangerous job for nearly two centuries.

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