25 September, 2013
Recently, FireDepartmentClothing.com dedicated a day to its female firefighter followers. We featured all sorts of content, reflecting the importance of having females in our fire departments nationwide, as well as promoting girl power.
It all stemmed from one of our female followers informing us that she loved our content, but we didn’t focus enough on the female firefighters out there. So, we happily agreed to dedicate an upcoming day of posts to our ladies out there.
Female Firefighters in the United States: The first known female firefighter of the United States was a slave from New York named Molly Williams, who was said to be “as good a fire laddie as many of the boys,” and fought fires during the early 1800s.In the 1820s, Marina Betts was a volunteer firefighter in Pittsburgh. Lillie Hitchcock was made an honorary member of the Knickerbocker Engine Company, No. 5., in San Francisco in 1863, and fought fires for some years after.
In the 1910s, there were women’s volunteer fire companies in Silver Spring, Maryland, and Los Angeles, California.In 1936 Emma Vernell became the first official female firefighter in New Jersey.
During World War II some women served as firefighters in the United States to replace firemen who joined the military; indeed, during part of the war two fire departments in Illinois were all-female. In 1942 the first all-female forest firefighting crew in California was created.
There were all-female fire companies in Kings County, California, and Woodbine, Texas, in the 1960s. In 1971 an all-female BLM (Bureau of Land Management) firefighting crew fought fires in the wilds of Alaska during the summer of 1971, and an all-female U.S. Forest Service firefighting crew fought fires in 1971 and 1972 in Montana.
The first known female fire chief in the U.S. was Ruth E. Capello. Ruth Capello was born in 1922 and became fire chief of the Butte Falls fire department in Butte Falls, Oregon in 1973. She died at the age of 70 in 1992.Sandra Forcier, the first known paid female firefighter (excluding forest firefighting) in the U.S., began working in North Carolina in 1973; she was a Public Safety Officer, a combination of police officer and firefighter. The first woman to work solely as a paid firefighter (excluding forest firefighting) was Judith Livers, hired by the Arlington County, Virginia, fire department in 1974. The first female head of a career fire department, Chief Rosemary Bliss in Tiburon, California, became fire chief in 1993.In the United States in 2002, approximately 2% of all firefighters were female.