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Ida Lewis - The Famed Maritime Rescuer

Maya Pillai Jun 18, 2019
Ida Lewis worked as a lighthouse keeper in Lime Rock Lighthouse between the 19th and 20th century. As a lighthouse keeper she is known to have rescued many sailors whose ships crashed in waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Today, she is a heroic figure for not only the American girls but also for the girls around the globe.

Ida's Early Years

Ida was born on February 25, 1842. She along with her family moved to Lime Rock Lighthouse in 1854, where her father was the lighthouse keeper. This lighthouse was not accessible by land.
She acted as the keeper on her father's behalf after he was bedridden due to a stroke. As a young girl Ida was a good swimmer and could also row a boat.

Ida's Rescues

Four young sailors whose sailboat capsized near Lime rocks were rescued by young Ida in 1858. She rowed into the rough sea and hauled them in to her board and rowed back to the lighthouse.
In 1869, she along with her younger brother rescued two soldiers whose boat had capsized in a snowstorm.
For this brave act she was awarded the rare Gold Lifesaving Medal from the United States government on July 16, 1881. She was the first woman to receive this prestigious award. Later, President Ulysses Grant and Vice-president Schuyler Colfax visited this brave lady. During this period her father was still the official light house keeper.
When her father passed away in 1872, her mother was appointed as the keeper. When her mother became ill, Ida became the official keeper in 1879. 
Ida had not maintained any records of her rescues. However, it is estimated that she must have rescued close to three dozens of sailors.

Ida Lewis's Accolades

Her heroism was mentioned in national magazines and dailies. People from all over the United States came to visit her. Musical pieces were named after her.
Ida was drawing the highest annual salary of $750 at that time. Later in 1906, Carnegie Hero Fund awarded her a special monthly pension of $30 for her acts of bravery for a lifetime.
In 1924, in her honor, the name of Lime Rock was changed to Lewis Rock. The lighthouse was renamed as Ida Lewis Lighthouse. Today, it hosts the Ida Lewis Yacht Club.
In 2018, this lighthouse keeper was lauded for her courage and bravery by Arlington National Cemetery near Washing DC.
Ida Lewis became the first woman to have a road leading to the final resting place of the presidents and war veterans named after her.
Ida Lewis passed away on October 24, 1911 due to a stroke. The bells of the vessels anchored at Newport Harbor tolled for her that night. The flags at Rhode Island flew at half-staff in her honor. Thousands of people from all walks of life flocked to attend her funeral.
She was indeed the 'Bravest Woman in America' of her time.