Women Have Contributed to Law Enforcement for More than a Century

In my crime fiction Emily Stone Thriller Series, the main character is an ex-police officer where she had to go toe to toe with a male dominated profession.  Certain situations (don’t want to give away any spoilers) dictated that she had to quit her post, but she more than made up for it being a stealthy, vigilante detective hunting down serial killers and anonymously emailing the information to the local detectives in charge of the cases.

In 1811, Francois Vidocq actually gave women their first show at police work when he employed them as paid undercover operatives.  Also around the same time in Paris, Edmond Locard was establishing the first private crime lab.  It is his principle (Locard Exchange Principle) that crime scene investigation uses today where with any contact between two items, there will be an exchange.

“In 1845, six women were hired by the New York City Police Department. At that time they were called police matrons and their job was to monitor and assist with minors and women inmates. After an assault took place on a young female prisoner 1891, it was determined that women and men inmates should be housed separately and matrons became a more important role. In 1908, the first female police officer, Lola Baldwin, was hired to carry out standard law enforcement duties. In 1910, Alice Wells was also hired by the LAPD. By 1912, Isabella Goodwin was the first woman to make Detective and in 1917, additional women were allowed to make arrests and carry out the same duties as their male counterparts.”  Source (NYPD website & unusualhistoricals.com)

1846 – Six women were hired by the NYPD as police matrons

1908 – First Female “Police Officer” – Lola Baldwin

1910 – Alice Wells was hired by LAPD

1912 – First female to make Detective – Isabella Goodwin

1915 – International Association of Police Women was formed

1918 – First female Homicide Detective – Mary Sullivan

1919 – First African-American Woman in NYPD – Cora Parchment

1968 – First Female Patrol Officer

1985 – First female Police Chief – Penny Harrington in Portland, Oregon

In the early 1970s, there were less than 1% women police officers in the United States.  Now, the average is about 15-20% of women police officers working today.  Working as a police officer is not doubt a demanding occupation both physically and mentally for any gender; however, women have had extra obstacles to overcome in this male dominated profession.

Interestingly, it has been stated that women make strong police officers, due to the fact they generally have excellent verbal and reasoning skills.  It helps to make up for the lack of brute strength in many situations.


Emily Stone has a tough act to follow with some impressive female police officers in history, but she manages to hunt down the serial killers and child abductors using her previous law enforcement experience, criminal profiling techniques, and solid forensic skills covertly.

Find out what Emily Stone is up to and ride along with a modern-day vigilante detective in her novel series short:



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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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8 Responses to Women Have Contributed to Law Enforcement for More than a Century

  1. donnagalanti says:

    Excellent history list! I am intrigued by the NYC police matrons and wonder what sort of tales they would have to tell. I also like how women bring the strength of reasoning and verbal skills vs. men’s strength the job- – it balances that power out a bit

    Liked by 1 person

    • Justice_321 says:

      Indeed, this is an extraordinary history list! I agree with you- both women and men contribute unique skills to a law enforcement career. It is reassuring how far society has progressed from the 19th century to present day. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack Durish says:

    Now that looks like the mother lode of grist for a great many tales. I hope you pursue it (or I might just jump in – don’t worry, that might not come for about 30 years and I doubt if I have 20 – if I’m lucky).


  3. I think it comes as a surprise to many people how long women have been participating in law enforcement beyond just as an office assistant. Women have operated as spy’s and undercover agents for far longer than people realize.


  4. Nahanni Wills says:

    Wow just 1 year after I was born was the first female Police Chief! That’s amazing that only in my life times was there a female Police Chief existing.


  5. I’d no idea women where active in law enforcement as early as 1846. True pioneers, and brave. Emily Stone is certainly following in a long line of tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

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