Women in Law Enforcement Timeline
Late 1960s-Early 1970s: More Opportunities for Women
Photograph: Officers Elizabeth Robinson and Betty Blankenship in uniform, standing on either side of a man in glasses, 1970. 2011.40.47. Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum. Washington, DC.
Officers Elizabeth Robinson and Betty Blankenship, 1970
1957: Beverly Garland made television history as the star of the syndicated TV series “Decoy: Police Woman,” the first American television police series with a woman in the starring role. Although it only lasted a single season, this groundbreaking series paved the way for many future police/detective shows starring women, such as NBC's “Police Woman” starring Angie Dickinson.
1960: The number of policewomen was twice that in 1950 and almost equal to the cumulative total in the 50 years since Alice Stebbins Wells became a sworn policewoman in 1910.
1961: Shpritzer v. Lang
Shpritzer v. Lang was a case brought to the Supreme Court of New York that had a significant impact on women in policing. Felicia Shpritzer was a highly educated woman and former teacher who waited four years to be appointed as a police officer after passing the civil service exam, since there were no positions available for women at that time.
Once she became an officer, Shpritzer found it unjust that women were not permitted to take the promotion exam, so she brought a class action suit to court. The court sided with Shpritzer, and although the City of New York appealed the decision, the Appeals Court upheld the lower court's decision. Following the decision, 126 women of the NYPD were allowed to take the promotion exam for sergeant.
1965: Shpritzer, along with her colleague, Gertrude Schimmel, had the two highest scores on the exam and were sworn in as the NYPD’s first female sergeants. Shpritzer retired as a lieutenant and Schimmel retired as a Deputy Chief in 1978.