Women in Transportation History: Kathleen “Kate” Moore, One of the First US Women Lighthousekeepers

Kathleen “Kate” Moore devoted most of her long life serving at the Connecticut-based Black Rock Harbor Light during an era in which lighthouse duties in the United States were generally handled by men only. Her father Stephen Moore became the keeper at the lighthouse, located on Fayerweather Island (just south of Bridgeport), in 1817. Kate, who was 12 (perhaps a little older) at the time, helped her father with caring for the lighthouse. When a serious injury prevented him from carrying out many of his duties as a keeper, Kate took on those tasks on his behalf.

Over the course of several decades, Kate more than held her own when it came to standing watch at Black Rock Harbor Light and braving the fierce storms of Long Island Sound. She kept the lighthouse lit during turbulent weather, rescued shipwrecked sailors, and nursed them back to health. As she recalled in one interview, “Sometimes there were more than two hundred sailing vessels at night, and some nights there were as many as three or four wrecks.”

Kate achieved legendary status for her work. According to the 1854 edition of the publication “Noble Deeds of American Women,” she was “ever ready to lend a helping hand, and shrinks from no danger, if duty points that way.”

After unofficially serving as head keeper at Black Rock Harbor Light for many years, Kate was formally appointed to the role in 1871. This made her one of the first women in the U.S. to be named a head lighthouse keeper. When she retired in 1878, she was asked about the many dangers she had faced throughout the decades. She responded, “You see, I had done all this for so many years, and I knew no other life, so I was sort of fitted for it.”

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