Captain Molly Kool
Captain Myrtle ‘Molly’ Kool (1916-2009) was a pioneer in Canada’s maritime history. The first woman in North America to become a licensed ship captain, Kool helped pave the way for future generations of women in her field. Born into a family of mariners in Alma, New Brunswick, Kool was on the water since her early days, where she built her career and reputation as a courageous and fearless mariner.
Kool spent most of her childhood aboard her father’s vessel Jean K, where she delivered cargo from ships anchored in deep waters to ports along the Bay of Fundy coastline. Kool was interested in obtaining her marine certifications, and applied to the merchant Marine School in Saint John, only to be turned down. Nonetheless, she persevered, and earned her mate’s certificate in 1937. Kool continued to pursue additional certifications, and was awarded her coastal master’s certificate in 1939, from the Merchant Marine Institute, in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Her certification enabled the formal addition of the prefix “she” to the Canada Shipping Act; up to that point, all mariners were referred to as “he”.
Now entitled to operate as a captain in coastal waters, Kool’s father handed her the Jean K, which she captained for the following five years. It was then that Kool built her legacy as a courageous and fearless mariner. She spent years sailing the treacherous waters of the Bay of Fundy, notorious for having the world’s highest tides. Kool dealt with rain, fog, and ice as her vessel hauled cargo up and down the East coast, sometimes making it as far south as Boston. Through her hard work, leadership, and determination, Kool earned the respect of her male colleagues, who, at that point, made up the vast majority of the maritime and shipping community.
After her life at sea, Kool moved to Maine, where she married and spent the rest of her life. Her ashes were scattered over the Bay of Fundy, near her birthplace and where she grew up.