Many of us take the presence of policewomen on patrol and in investigative roles for granted. Realistic dramas and comedies in the movies and on television show women officers performing the same duties as men on the force. This visibility tells us thing about the hostility and controversy that have beset policewomen since they were first hired by police departments in the 1910s. Author Janis Appier traces the origins of women in police work, explaining how pioneer policewomen's struggles to gain secure footholds in big city police departments ironically helped to make modern policework one of the most male dominated occupations in the United State. With a new vision of n-coercive police work and crime prevention, Progressive reformers exerted political and social pressure to create positions for female officers dedicated to guiding and protecting juveniles and women. Women reformers pointed to changing sexual mores among working-class female youth to emphasize the need for a new approach to policing. The policewomen who undertook the work of counseling sexually active teenage girls and their families saw themselves as helping young people achieve moral equilibrium during a period in which standards of context were in flux. In the Los Angeles Police Department, the first to hire women, this social work was primarily the responsibility of the City Mother's Bureau; in other major cities, policewomen's roles were similarly constructed as maternalistic. Scrutinizing case records, public statements, and departmental policies governing policewomen, Appier shows how female officers handled the complex gender politics of their work with the public and within their departments. Appier reveals that many of these pioneering policewomen succeeded in expanding the scope of policework and carving out a rewarding professional niche, despite continued attempts to oust them or limit their sphere of action. But this advancement was short-lived; within a generation a masculinized model of crime fighting took hold, and policewomen's authority eroded.
Janis Appier is Assistant Professor of History at Ohio State University. She has written extensively about women and criminal justice.