March 14, 1898 | Marie Connolly Owens

 
 

“Give me men like she is a woman and we will have the model detective bureau of the whole world.”
—Captain O’Brien, Chicago (IL) Police Department, 1906

After scoring 99% on her civil service exam, Marie Connolly Owens is sworn in as a ‘regular patrolman’ with the Chicago (IL) Police Department by the Chicago Civil Service Commission. Detective Sergeant Owens had already been walking the beat for seven years with the full powers of a police officer when she was added to the civil service rolls along with the rest of the Force. She was transferred from the Sanitary Police in 1891, because of her distinguished efforts enforcing child labor laws. Owens served with the Chicago Police Department from 1891 to 1925. A skilled detective, Owens liked police work because it gave her “a chance to help women and children…In my sixteen years experience, I have come across more suffering than ever is seen by any man detective.”

Owens was a widow with four children to support when she took the job with the department. She is believed to be the first woman police officer in the United States—predating other known examples by at least 15 years.*

 

*Thanks to Rick Barrett, retired DEA agent, for his dedication and historic detective work in uncovering the forgotten story of Marie Connelly Owens.