Georgiana Lair McMenamin, the last New York Fire Department matron, died on May 9. Cause of death was not released. She was 102.
The NYFD created the fire matron position in the 1860s. These women, who were often firefighters’ widows in need of income, were paid by a “house tax” collected from the firefighters’ salaries.
McMenamin’s husband, Engine Co. 75 firefighter James Joseph McMenamin, collapsed of a heart attack after fighting a blaze in 1930. To support her family, she became a firehouse matron on the Upper West Side of Manhattan two years later, and earned her keep by sewing, ironing, making beds and washing linens.
The New York native served in this position for 60 years, and was the last matron in the city. Although McMenamin retired in 1991, the firefighters from Engine Co. 40/Ladder Co. 35 continued to pay her $100 monthly stipend from their house taxes.