Today I pay tribute to the woman who was the first known female firefighter in the United States: Molly Williams. This strong Black woman cemented her place in history with her distinguished presence at the Oceanus Engine Company #11 in New York City. She was held as a slave by Benjamin Aymar, a merchant who was affiliated with Company #11.
“Molly Williams (fl. 1818) was the first known female firefighter in the United States. An African American, she was held as a slave belonging to a New York City merchant by the name of Benjamin Aymar who was affiliated with the Oceanus Engine Company #11 in 1818. During her time in the company she was called Volunteer No. 11. Williams made a distinguished presence in her sturdy work clothes of calico dress and checked apron and was said to be “as good a fire laddie as many of the boys.” Her service was noted particularly during the blizzard of 1818. Male firefighters were scarce due to an influenza outbreak, but Williams took her place with the men on the dragropes and pulled the pumper to the fire through the deep snow.”
When asked about her service to the company, she was said to have always replied: “I belong to old Eleven – I always run with that old boiler-engine.” I wrote it legibly, unlike the site did, because I get annoyed when people insist on forcing a pickaninny accent onto others, whether they speak in that fashion or not. I certainly don’t see people going out of their way, on a daily basis, to mock the accents of white-trash rednecks and hillbillies in writing!
Digressing…it was difficult to find any deep information about Molly Williams, and it pisses me off that a very notable woman has been shoved aside and forgotten about, simply because she was Black. If she had been white, you can bet that there would be statues in her honor! For instance, here’s the site for the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services. What’s said about Molly Williams is this:
“Women have been firefighters for longer than most people realize: in fact, for
almost 200 years. The first woman firefighter we know of was Molly Williams, who
was a slave in New York City and became a member of Oceanus Engine Company #11
in about 1815.”
Meanwhile, a white woman gets this honor:
“One woman whose name is sometimes mentioned as an early female firefighter is the San Francisco heiress, Lillie Hitchcock Coit. She became an honorary member of Knickerbocker Engine Company #5 as a teenager in 1859, after helping them drag the engine to a fire on Telegraph Hill.”
Another site has a bit more information on this gutsy lady:
“Williams was a cook for Oceanus Company 11 of the New York Fire Department in the early years of the 19th century. When most of the volunteer company was laid up with the flu on a snowy winter’s night, Williams answered the call to duty when a fire broke out in a neighborhood house.”
I came across still more information on a blog called the 44-Diaries:
“The members of the house credited her for being as tough as the male firefighters. She would fight amongst them in a calico dress and checked apron.
Besides the bucket brigades, Molly pulled the pumper to fires through the deep snowdrifts of the blizzard of 1818 to save towns. On December 27, 1819, the Fire Department reported that the fire buckets were rapidly being superseded by the use of hose, so the era of fire buckets ended.
Even as a slave, Williams had gained the respect of her fellow firefighters. Her story and strength paved the way for other women, including one the first paid Black female firefighters and the most tenured in the country – Toni McIntosh of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who served for over 11 years.
Today there are many African-American women working as career firefighters and officers in the United States, along with a number of counterparts in the volunteer ranks. The African American Fire Fighter Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting, conserving and sharing the heritage of African American firefighters.
The Museum is housed at old Fire Station 30. This station, which was one of two segregated fire stations in Los Angeles, between 1924 and 1955, was established in 1913, to serve the Central Ave community.”
What was frustrating was that there was no information about Molly Williams on the AAFFM website…go figure.
At any rate, I salute Molly Williams, a beautiful, strong Black woman who hasn’t been given her due place in history. In the face of the rampant racism in today’s firehouses, her legacy should encourage Black boys and girls to not shy away from these necessary trades.
Speaking of racism in this supposed “post-racial” society we live in, due to the POTUS being the son of an African man and a white woman from AmeriKKKa, let me show you the depth of hatred that is still prevalent in 2013. I can’t say I’m shocked by this incident, because the atmosphere of most corporations in this county is incredibly, flagrantly, toxically, vile and racist! Check out this story – KGW Newschannel 8 reports:
A man charged with slapping a toddler after cursing at him with a racial slur on a Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight is out of a job, his former employer said Sunday…Hundley was charged last week in federal court in Atlanta with simple assault for allegedly slapping the 2-year-old boy during the Feb. 8 flight. His attorney, Marcia Shein, of Decatur, Ga., said Saturday that Hundley will plead not guilty. The charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail.
Shein did not immediately returned messages seeking comment left Sunday evening by The Associated Press. Hundley does not have a listed phone number.
The boy’s mother, Jessica Bennett, 33, told the FBI their flight was on final descent into Atlanta when her 19-month-old son started to cry due to the altitude change. Hundley “told her to shut that (racial slur) baby up,” FBI special agent Daron Cheney said in a sworn statement. She said Hundley then slapped him in the face, scratching the boy below his right eye and causing him to scream even louder.”
Let’s see…well, first clue is that the dude was from fucking Idaho – we all know what that backwater, inbred-infested state is like! Hayden Lake, Idaho has been a bastion of neo-nazis and white supremacist fucktards for ages.
As a side note, does anybody remember when Tampa Bay footballer LeGarrette Blount punched the Boise State player after a game? He was with the Oregon Ducks then, and I recall it vividly. I think I’m one of the few people who asked what Byron Hout REALLY said to him before that incident occurred!
February is more than halfway over – spring is just around the corner! I can’t wait…