Women Firefighters Answer the Call at Darby Fire Company

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Darby Fire Company's women firefighters (from left) Joanne Middaugh, JoAnna Billings, Aubrey Lehman and Mary Ann Bradford.
Image via patch.com.
Darby Fire Company's women firefighters (from left) Joanne Middaugh, JoAnna Billings, Aubrey Lehman and Mary Ann Bradford.

The first record of American women firefighters was in 1818 when Molly Williams, a black enslaved woman and a cook for the Oceanus Engine Co. 11 in lower Manhattan, showed up to a fire scene in the middle of a blizzard, writes Aryn Coblentz for patch.com.

She arrived in a calico dress and apron carrying a water tanker.

Decades later, women comprise only 4 percent of the nation’s fire service, but they are there, including four with Darby Fire Company No. 1

Darby is the second oldest fire company in Pennsylvania, the fifth oldest in the nation.

“Darby is unique because of when they were established,” says Darby volunteer Aubrey Lehman. “The long rich history of those that came before me is absolutely wonderful and cannot be replicated.”

Two of Darby’s women, Lehman and JoAnna Billings, are firefighters.  Joanne Middaugh is company vice president. Mary Ann Bradford is an administrative volunteer.

“I fell in love with the people down here,” Billings said. “This is where I’m meant to be.”

Lehman finds being a women among Darby Fire Company’s brotherhood of firefighters “empowering and a wonderful thing,”

“I don’t back away from a challenge.”

Read more at patch.com about women firefighters at Darby Fire Company.  

Here’s what it takes to be a female firefighter.

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