Women in Law Enforcement Timeline
Photograph: New York Police Department Police Matron Annie Boylan, 1909. 2008.33.4. Collection of the National Law Enforcement Museum, Washington, DC.
Matron Annie Boylan
An example of an early NYPD police matron, the back of the photo reads "Boylan, Annie Ret 5/31/20." The photo was taken on March 18, 1909, at Pedlar's Photo Studio in Brooklyn, NY.
One significant difference between early police matrons and policewomen: matrons did not have sworn powers of arrest. This begs the question: Who was the “First” sworn policewoman?
While we cannot say with complete certainty who the nation’s first sworn policewoman was, recent research revealed records from the 1890s of female officer Marie Owens of the Chicago Police Department.
Another policewoman of the early 20th century was Lola Greene Baldwin, who became a policewoman with the Portland (OR) Police Department in 1908.
On April 1, 1908, Portland Mayor Harry Lane administered the police oath to 48-year-old Lola Greene Baldwin, often recognized as the first woman known to be hired under civil service rules in the United States as a full-time paid law enforcement officer. A former teacher and voluntary investigative social worker, Baldwin was earlier asked to lead a “vice-policing” program for the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1904, designed to protect young females visiting the fair from “moral pitfalls.”
Detective Baldwin supervised the officers of the Portland Police Department Women’s Protective Division from 1908 to 1922, advised the Portland Vice Commission, championed the city’s Domestic Relations Court, and served as Oregon State Special Agent for vice control.