Jane Colden, botanist

Jane Colden (1724 – 1766) was the first female botanist in the United States. She is most famous for her manuscript in which she describes the flora of the New York area, and draws ink drawings of 340 different species of them. She was born in New York City and educated at home. Her father gave her botanical training by following the new system of classification developed by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist. Between 1753 and 1758, Ms. Colden catalogued New York’s flora, compiling specimens and information on more than 300 species of plants from the lower Hudson River Valley. She developed a technique for making… Read More

Read more

Carrie McHenry Thomas, Parks Department

Carrie McHenry Thomas (1913 – 2013) was the first African-American to work at the Arsenal in Central Park with the New York City Parks Department. She was recruited in 1937 by Stuart Constable, the Director of Parks under Robert Moses. She worked in Room 100, which was then the Capital Projects division for Parks. She was one of three women working there, and started out as a Contract and Specification Writer. She worked in the Capital Projects division until 1978. She also advocated for the hiring of other African-Americans in the park department including engineers and architects. Ms. Thomas worked… Read More

Read more

Molly Williams, first female firefighter

Molly Williams  was the first known female firefighter in the United States. An African American, she was held as a slave belonging to a  Benjamin Aymar, a merchant in NYC,  who was affiliated with the Oceanus Engine Company #11 in 1818. During her time in the company she was called Volunteer No. 11. Williams fought fires in a  calico dress and apron and was said to be “as good a fire laddie as many of the boys.” Her service was noted particularly during the blizzard of 1818. Male firefighters were scarce due to an influenza outbreak, but Williams worked with the men on the ropes and pulled the pumper to the fire through the deep snow. Again, thanks… Read More

Read more