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Female firefighters: No longer a novelty

Posted: Thursday, Oct 11th, 2012

Female firefighters are not as sparse as you might think, especially here in Brookings County. The ladies of the Aurora Volunteer Fire Department include, front row left to right: Kayla McCarthy and Brenna Redday; and back row, left to right: Sarita Hartmann, Wendy Olson and Anjali Mehra. Photo by Charis Prunty/Register

• Brookings County volunteers defying stereotypes

BROOKINGS – The face of firefighting in Brookings County is different now than perhaps it was when you were growing up. Among other things, that face is probably prettier.

Firefighting has often been considered a man’s job. Really, American women have been fighting fires for years. The first woman firefighter known to the International Association of Women in Fire & Emergency Services is Molly Williams, an African American slave owned by a volunteer firefighter who, beginning in about 1815, was seen fighting fires in New York City wearing a calico dress and checked apron.

PBS notes in a documentary called “Taking the Heat” that, in 1974, a dental assistant and cosmetology student named Judith Livers became the first woman in the world to become a career firefighter. She worked for Arlington County, Va., and retired in 1999 as a battalion chief. In 2006, Women in the Fire Service estimated there were 6,160 active women firefighters in the U.S.

Brookings County has some of them. Right now, the Brookings Volunteer Fire Department includes three women: Wendy Long, Mandi Cramer and Lori Mergen. The Aurora Volunteer Fire Department has even more: Wendy Olson and her daughter, Brenna Redday; Sarita Hartmann, Anjali Mehra and Kayla McCarthy.

For the complete article see the 10-11-2012 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-11-2012 paper.

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