Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
When it comes to crime and criminals, there is a lot of mention of the famous or infamous rather, women perpetrating the crimes. We hear a lot about the likes of Aileen Wournos, Bonnie Parker, and even women who have killed their own children like Andrea Yates.
We never hear about the women who are positive role models for law enforcement and for young girls everywhere. Well, there is one in particular that you may have never heard of before and she was Lola Green Baldwin.
Lola Greene Baldwin was the first policewoman in the United States. She was born in Elmira, New York in 1860 and when old enough to attend school, she attended an Episcopal school in Rochester, New York. However, her father died when she was just seventeen years old and Baldwin quit school to get a job. She eventually began teaching school in New York and then in Nebraska and eventually married a man named LeGrand Baldwin in 1884. Twenty years later, Baldwin's husband took a job in Portland, Oregon and she volunteered at a refuge to help wayward girls and young, unwed mothers.
In 1905, Portland, Oregon had one of its biggest events in its history; the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. Portland officials expected a lot of people for this event, and when I say a lot, I mean a million or more. The Y.W.C.A. Constituted a traveler's aid program. This program was mainly established to help young women and protect them from the criminal element that will likely come with an event this large. Known for her work with young women, Lola Baldwin was hired and paid seventy-five dollars a month and she was also given the authority to make arrests.
After the exposition was done, Baldwin continued to help the police, for free, with vice investigations involving young women and she eventually established the very first Juvenile court in Portland and also became the court's first probation officer for girls. Her work with young women became very well known around the Portland area. So much so that in 1908, the city council voted unanimously to have a women's police ordinance. Later that year, she passed the civil service exam and was sworn in as the nation's first paid policewoman.
Lola Baldwin remained with the Portland police department until she retired in 1922 but she always worked with them in one way or another. She served many terms on the Parole Board and on the National Board of Prisons and Prison Labor. Baldwin also traveled the country to speak with other police departments and try to get them to hire women as police officers and to provide better protection for women.
Lola Baldwin died in 1957 and her logs and records are on display in the Portland Police museum. This article does not do this woman justice. There is so much more that she has done as a suffragist and I implore you to look her up and read all about what she has done for women.