The first known firefighter who was a woman was New Yorker Molly Williams, who was also an African-American slave. Her work was particularly noted during the blizzard of 1818 and she struggled bravely against the odds. Since her, there have been thousands of women who stood up to the call of duty, and fought bravely alongside men, in the long running battle against the elements.
Yes, women have been engaged in firefighting for two centuries now. Many have lost their lives and have gone unnoticed. In fact, the world of firefighting in the USA during World War II, was predominantly women, when most of the men were sent to foreign shores to fight a war. Women stood up and took up the unfilled positions with bravery and dignity.
Most women proved that they weren’t just ordinary firefighters and heroes. Even now, there are quite a few who hold positions of prominent command. And women everywhere are now up to support women firefighters, and hold their memories in public hearts. In the United States alone, there are around forty thousand female firefighters. Although, this number seems large to us, in comparison it isn’t enough to attract attention, unless you have been drawn out of a burning home, and your rescuer reveals ‘herself’ to you. And would that ever leave you?
There aren’t enough stories and attention given to them. So when is someone going to make a good movie about Molly Williams? Are the studios out there listening? I think it is time, and it would work in the vast Hollywood market.
One has to remind the world today, about women in firefighting. For women, that brave fires and threats everyday, their jobs are a daily battle. Unfortunately, many also suffer sexual harassment and are viewed as incompetent firefighters. This bias leads other firefighters to distrust her and be condescending and that can prove fatal in life or death situations. Trust between the team is imperative to their safety, and one another, and women often find themselves the odd ‘woman’ out. Yet there are stations that thankfully and happily accept their competence, and biases are removed. But this trend of equality is not predominating. Molly Williams herself was known, "as good a fire laddie as many of the boys."
It’s been years since women have been fighting for equal firefighting status. All of the ones in the past have attempted to lay down the path for future generations. And a lot of their stories may never be known. It is imperative that women in firefighting don’t go as unsung heroes.
Now, I remember clearly, through photographs and interviews, that there were quite a few women firefighters at Ground Zero. Many people lost their lives in that tragic event and there were quite a few firefighters who died during the rescue attempts.
And needless to say, that many of those brave firefighters who lost their lives were also women.