Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America's First Female Firefighter

Overview

This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City's Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11. Relying on historic records and pictures and working closely with firefighting experts, ...

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Overview

This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City's Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11. Relying on historic records and pictures and working closely with firefighting experts, Dianne Ochiltree and artist Kathleen Kemly not only bring this spunky and little-known heroine to life but also show how fires were fought in early America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ochiltree and Kemly share the little-known story of Molly Williams, an African-American woman who, in the early 1800s, went from cooking for New York City's volunteer firefighters to battling blazes alongside them as the first female firefighter. The men of Fire Company No. 11 adore Molly's hasty pudding and apple tansey, but when a fire breaks out during a blizzard, she races outdoors to warn the neighborhood, then helps haul out the pumper engine, carry buckets, and combat the fire. Kemly's snow-streaked illustrations show Molly as a woman of determination and strength, and a sense of both danger and heroism radiates from the story. Ages 7–10. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"Kemly’s snow-streaked illustrations show Molly as a woman of determination and strength, and a sense of both danger and heroism radiates from the story." —Publishers Weekly

 "Ochiltree and Kemly tell Molly Williams’ story in lively prose and richly modeled watercolors… 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….A pleasing historical tidbit." —Kirkus Reviews

Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
At the New York City fire station, Molly is known for her fine cooking from chicken roly-poly to hasty pudding. She prepares the meals for firefighters of Fire Company Number 11. One snow stormy day, the bells begin to ring alerting the people of a nearby fire and Molly dashes to the fire equipment shed and helps the volunteer firefighters bring the equipment to the fire in order to extinguish the blaze. The watercolor illustrations fill the pages and provide excellent support. At the back of the book, the author briefly explains her interest in Molly Williams' story. In addition, Ochiltree uses a question and answer format to provide some information about the fire companies in the early 1800s and the way fires were handled during that time period. The information in the book provides an interesting contrast between firefighting during the early 19th century and current times. For those readers that wish to pursue more information about firefighting, check out the resources (book titles, web sites, and bibliography) located after the story. Each web site on the list has a short description. The book is a good addition for a variety of different study units (i.e. fire safety, women in history). Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung
School Library Journal
Gr 1–4—Williams was a cook for New York City's volunteer Fire Company 11 in the early 1800s. When a snowstorm and influenza threatened to cripple the firefighters' efforts, the African American woman fled her kitchen as the first church bells announced a fire nearby. She alerted the runners to gather buckets and volunteers, fetched water from the river, pumped the engine, sprayed the blazing wooden house, and "pulled down chunks of burning roof with a hooked iron rod." From then on, she was known as "Volunteer No. 11," the first woman firefighter in America. Mouths will water at the mention of Molly's delectable 19th-century dishes such as hasty pudding, chicken roly-poly, hot apple tansey, and venison stew-students will probably want to research the recipes as well. They can also compare the tools, equipment, and practice of firefighting today to that of 200 years ago. Vibrant watercolor illustrations are filled with historical details; windmills, butter churns, cobblestoned streets, wooden houses with thatched roofs, and weather vanes capture the "small town" community in which everyone pitches in to avert crisis. This attractive, engaging, carefully researched title will not only enrich firefighting units, but is also recommended for women's history and lessons on post-Colonial life.—Barbara Auerbach, P.S. 217, Brooklyn, New York
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590787212
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2012
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 600,571
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.30 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

 Dianne Ochiltree is the author of several award-winning picture books for the very young, including Ten Monkey Jamboree, Sixteen Runaway Pumpkins (Margaret K. McElderry Books) and Lull-a-bye, Little One (G.P. Putnam's Sons). Dianne lives in Sarasota, Florida, with her family and pets in a house by the bay. You can visit her at ochiltreebooks.com.

Kathleen Kemly Molly, By Golly included a trip to the New York City Fire Museum. While in New York she was able to imagine MollyYou Can for Calkins Creek and A Fishing Surprise for Cooper Square Publishing, among others. Kathleen lives in Seattle and can be reached at kathleenkemly.com.

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