Born to an army doctor who struck it rich in California during the Gold Rush era, Coit's signature moment came as a young woman, when she joined local firefighters hauling an engine up one of San Francisco's steep hills. She became the mascot of Knickerbocker Company #5, which gave her a gold badge she wore proudly.
Known to wear pants and smoke cigars, she would dress like a man in order to get into the gambling halls she favored. Perhaps not altogether surprisingly, her marriage to Howard Coit, a businessman, was brief. When she died, Coit left a third of her estate to the city to build something. That something became Coit Tower.