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NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 60 Issue: 10 Dated: (October 1993) Pages: 139-144
C H House
Date Published
6 pages
This article reviews the history of women's roles and professional obstacles in American policing.
Women were involved in police work as early as 1845 in New York City, where they worked as jail matrons. If arrest powers define a police officer, then Lola Baldwin may be considered the first woman police officer. She worked in Portland, Oregon, in the early 1900's to care for women and children at the Lewis and Clark Exposition. In 1910, in Los Angeles, Alice Stebbins Wells became the first woman to have both the title of police officer and arrest powers. Her primary duties were the supervision and enforcement of laws applicable to juveniles and women at public recreation areas. By the end of World War I, there were policewomen in more than 200 U.S. cities. Although the International Association of Chiefs of Police affirmed in 1922 that women were essential members of any modern police department, the average male officer considered policewomen a fad. Opportunities for women in many occupations increased in the 1940's, but women in policing still were assigned traditional female police duties; few were in administrative positions. Police-work opportunities significantly increased for women in the 1970's. Women began attending regular police academies with men. Expanded occupational opportunities for women were due largely to legislative, executive, and judicial rulings. As the number of women in policing increased in the 1970's, so did the number of women in supervisory positions. Although women's participation in policing has and still faces opposition throughout its history, women have continued to prove their effectiveness in every policing responsibility assigned to them. 19 references