Stop, drop and roll, ladies. We’re talking about fire. Now, fire gets a bad rap and rightfully so. It isn’t exactly discriminatory when it comes to what it takes down, from steamships to coal mines, theaters and forests. But it is also the driving force that enabled us to progress as humans from raw-bug-eating Neanderthals. Fire warms us, kills organisms in our food and water, and keeps outdoor predators away. And bonus: It makes the most amazing charred marshmallows! Today, we’re saluting the modern-day men and women who keep us safe and come to the rescue when a fireworks display goes awry or we accidentally leave the stove on.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 6,200
When I say the word “firefighter,” what do you think of? If a strapping man in suspenders comes to mind, you’re not alone. But these days, they’re called firefighters—not firemen—for a reason: Plenty of hose-toting, rescue-driven women pursue this courageous occupation. In the United States alone, about 6,200 women are full-time career firefighters and officers. Additionally, several hundred women hold the rank of fire lieutenant or captain, and another 150 women are fire chiefs. Even more impressive, an estimated 40,000 women volunteer to fight fires.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Josephine Reynolds, Author and Britain’s First Full-time Female Firefighter
Our cousin across the pond, Great Britain, has the United States beat in a lot of ways, like digestive biscuits and public-transit etiquette. But when it comes to female firefighters, the Brits still have some catching up to do. That’s why we can’t get enough of today’s Woman to Watch, the fiery and purpose-driven Josephine Reynolds, Britain’s first female firefighter.
Josephine’s rousing story began when she was just 17 years old. In the early 1980s, this determined teenager endured a 40-minute interview/interrogation at the Norfolk, England Fire and Rescue Service in the effort to join the squad. Two senior male fire officers questioned her at length, doubting her physical strength and ability to balance priorities. But Josephine was undaunted, responding to their concerns simply, acknowledging that if they trained her correctly, there would be nothing to worry about.
Fifteen months of arduous training later, Josephine made history, becoming the country’s first full-time female firefighter. By the time she turned 21, she made history again as the first woman qualified to drive a fire engine. Determined never to be the weakest link in her overwhelmingly male-dominated industry, Josephine soldiered on, eventually earning the respect of her fellow firefighters and recently claiming, “If a woman really wants to do something, nothing will stop her.”
All these years later, Josephine, now in her 50s, has released an exceptional memoir, Fire Woman: The Extraordinary Story of Britain’s First Female Firefighter, in which she recounts her firefighting career, giving readers a glimpse of her immense triumphs and crushing defeats, from the daily post-training vomiting sessions brought on by fatigue and the feelings of loneliness as the only woman in the position, to the emotional strain of responding to horrific road accidents and suicides, to the eventual and powerful camaraderie she gained among the members of her squad.
Josephine attributes her take-no-crap attitude to excelling as her country’s first female firefighter, and she definitely paved the way for more women to take on this life-saving role. We are so inspired by Josephine, and know her story will continue to set the world on fire.
QUITE THE QUOTE
With Josephine Reynolds in mind, today’s quote comes from former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir:
“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.