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MOLLY, BY GOLLY! by Dianne Ochiltree


The Legend of Molly Williams, America's First Female Firefighter

by Dianne Ochiltree & illustrated by Kathleen Kemly

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59078-721-2
Publisher: Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills

The first American female firefighter was an African-American cook in the first quarter of the 19th century in New York City.

Ochiltree and Kemly tell Molly Williams’ story in lively prose and richly modeled watercolors. Molly cooked for Mr. Aymar, who was also a volunteer firefighter for the Oceanus Engine Company No. 11. A heavy snowstorm and a wave of influenza laid many of the volunteers low, so Molly took herself out of the kitchen and alerted runners—the boys who spread the alarm—and then put on a leather helmet and gloves and worked beside the men pumping water from the river, passing buckets of water hand to hand, until finally the blaze was out. All the pages are double-spread, full-bleed images, showing much period detail along with the flames and falling snow and Molly’s signature bright blue calico dress and checkered apron. Faces are broad and full of emotion, with Molly’s strong brown face showing every nuance of determination and courage. The bibliography includes titles for children and for adults, as well as websites and other links. There is also a FAQ that clearly explains many of the historical details.

A pleasing historical tidbit.

(author’s note, acknowledgments) (Picture book. 5-9)