FORT WAYNE, Indiana--It’s not the most dangerous job in the world but it’s sure right up there. And there’s no question being a firefighter is a huge challenge…physically and emotionally. Up until just a few years ago it was generally thought that firefighter was no job for a woman.
Carol Butler knows about the challenges women face in a man’s world..she’s a U.S. Navy veteran. A few years ago at Fort Wayne’s VA hospital a young nurse told her she was a student at a local middle school when Carol spoke to her class in her navy uniform.
“She said ‘because I was so impressed with your uniform and the way you talked and what you said, that I decided right then and there I wanted a career in the military and I joined the Army and the Air Force.!”
That inspired Butler to write a book, about another pioneer, Fort Wayne firefighter Genois Wilson, the first female firefighter in the department’s history. The story begins with Wilson’s childhood when her family home burns down, killing her older sister and instilling in Wilson the importance of firefighting. She was a dispatcher with the Fort Wayne Fire Department when the chief encouraged her to become a full fledged firefighter, which she did. Carol Butler felt that Wilson’s story was one children should hear.
“You have to dream first,” Butler says. “You have to study hard you have to work hard but that your dream can be fulfilled.”
Last July Amy Biggs was sworn in as the first female chief of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, a career path cleared, in part, by Genois Wilson…a story told in Carol Butler’s beautiful book illustrated by Fort Wayne artist Teresa Yarborough whose father was this city’s first Black firefighter. It’s a book of firsts by a first rate, first-time storyteller out in Your Country. This is Eric Olson reporting.
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