Sunday, August 30, 2009


Molly Kool grew up in a small fishing village called Alma on the Bay of Fundy.

The sea by her tiny cottage has the highest waves in the worlds.

Molly’s father was a ship’s captain.

He built a boat called a scow to carry long logs to Boston Harbor.

Molly’s favorite spot was always by her father’s side on the water.

Before Molly was born, her father named his boat the Jean K after Molly’s older sister. But Molly was his best first mate.

Molly could do any job on the ship. She could fix a broken engine while the boat bounced around in the foggy, icy waters. She could cook dinner for the hungry crew or sew the canvas sails.

When weather was good she cranked the winch to raise the sails.

Giant waves could not stop Molly Kool. She steered the boat away from the rocky cliffs when tides were high.

The deepest mud could not stop Molly. As the water rose, she pulled on ropes and dragged the boat with the flat bottom farther out to sea.

In the fall when she returned to school, her father hired two men to take her place.

First Mate Molly wanted to be a sea captain just like her father.

But she had one problem.

Every sea captain was a man.

No one believed a woman could run a ship.

Her father said, “Molly you can do it.”

Molly would order the crew to move the logs from ship to scow.

She could keep her boat close to the big ship so its logs rolled perfectly on to the Jean K’s deck.

Molly would order the crew to loosen the chains. With a roar as loud as thunder the logs dropped into the harbor water while Molly kept the Jean K steady.

On one foggy trip a steam ship hit the Jean K. The crash made Molly fall over the side. She grabbed a floating log. Her shipmates threw not one, not two, but five life preservers.

“I am already floating. Send a boat!” she yelled.

The Jean K was not the biggest ship in the port. But Molly was very proud to keep it safe from every danger. One summer day Molly and her boat were waiting at the dock with lumber piled high upon the deck. Captain Gunderson was used to getting what he wanted. Today he wanted the Jean K’s spot. Molly heard his ship’s whistle but refused to move. Two sailors came onto her deck.

“Move this ship!” said the sailors.

“No. I came here first.” Said Molly.

That day the Jean K kept it place.

Before Molly could be a captain, she must learn the rules. But that would not be easy because only boys could study at the captain’s school. Soon Molly joined the boys. She was the best student. It took her two years to win her papers.

When she passed all her tests, she wrote a letter to her family.

It said, “You can Call Me Captain, from now on!”

This is how Molly Kool became Captain Molly Kool, the first woman ship’s captain in North America.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Jim And Her Singing Flute

Hi. I am Frances and I am a girl. My father wanted me to be a boy. He called me, “my Jim.”

He loved to play the flute. When I was five he bought me a piccolo. That is a little flute.

He taught me how to play it like a harmonica.

He thought I was very good. He wrote a letter to a famous flute player in New York. He asked Mr. Wagner to give “my Jim,” some lessons.

Mr. Wagner said, “No. I will not teach a girl. Do not waste my time or your money. No one will let a girl play a flute in the orchestra.”

I was very sad. Mr. Wagner listened to me play. “Who taught this little girl to play?”

My father was very proud. He said, “I did.”

“Well, you taught her wrong. I will teach her the correct fingers to use.”

He was a very good teacher. I took a train from our New Jersey farm to New York City every Friday for four years to Mr. and Mrs. Wagner’s house.

Mr. and Mrs. Wagner lived across the street from Carnegie Hall. They invited famous musicians to their house. I went to the parties too.

On Saturday Mr. Wagner gave me a flute lesson. After lunch I explored the city. I liked shop windows filled with pretty dresses. Mr. Wagner played with a big orchestra on Saturday night. He took me to listen to him. On Sunday morning I practiced with a children’s orchestra. Then I rode a train back home.

When I was 16, I wrote a letter to the great George Barrere. He was the finest flute player in America. He was tall man. His long black beard and beady eyes frightened me.

“We expected a boy,” the secretary said. “ Mr. Barrere will not teach a girl to play the flute.”

I played.

“You go to the office, and you tell them I want you. Do you understand?”

“Oh, yes. I understand. I am a girl who plays the flute.”

It was hard for some people to believe a girl could play the flute as well as a boy. One time I wore a gown of silver and gold and played at Radio City Music Hall. I looked out over the stage. It was dark and quiet. The Rockette Dancer nudged me and said, “Get going kid and smile.”

I played alone.

I played for the Nutcracker Ballet in New York City.

I played alone.

I played for a children’s concert. It was a big honor.

I played alone.

I played for many years.

I married a man who played the clarinet.

We had a boy and a girl.

One day the Philharmonic Orchestra needed an extra flute player. The director knew about the lady who played the flute alone. He asked her to join the other flute players.

I was very happy. Now I was the first girl to play the flute in an orchestra. I was Frances Blaisdell.