Little Known Black History Fact: Molly Williams

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  • Molly Williams was the first recorded woman firefighter in the country. Williams worked as a cook in the Oceanus Engine Company firehouse in 1815. She was a slave owned by a New York merchant and was known for years as Volunteer Number 11 at the firehouse. She did back breaking work, showing as much strength and dedication of the men in the bucket brigades.

    Williams left a legacy during the blizzard of 1818. When most of the men were down with influenza, Williams the cook was using her own weight to pull the pumper to the fires through the heavy blizzard then filling it with water by the bucket. She would be seen putting out fires in her calico dress and checked apron.

    The story of Molly Williams is told in a children’s book called “Molly, By Golly!” by Dianne Ochiltree. Her heroics are also mentioned at the African American Firefighters Museum in Los Angeles.
     

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