OSU Libraries | OSU Home

A Municipal Mother

Portland's Lola Greene Baldwin, America's First Policewoman

Gloria E. Myers

Illustrated with photographs. Bibliography. Index. 240 pages.

1995. ISBN 978-0-87071-386-6. Hardcover, $29.95.

On April 1, 1908, Lola G. Baldwin, aged forty-eight, was sworn in "to perform Police Service" for the city of Portland, Oregon. She was the first woman hired by an American municipality to carry out regular enforcement duties. The municipal policewoman movement originated in Portland, and first proved its viability in the cities of the Northwest.

In telling Lola Baldwin's story, Gloria Myers examines the social and cultural impulses that gave rise to the policewoman idea. The Progressive Era redefined the role of women in society; Baldwin's career benefited from the Progressive belief that women could ameliorate urban evil as they had earlier civilized the household. The need for the urban policewoman arose out of concern for the moral and physical welfare of families, single working women, and children living in the cities. Supported by socially active women's organizations and informed by the ideals of "social hygeine," the first policewoman led a crusade against urban vice, deviance, and corruption in the Rose City. Preventive policing strategies developed by "municipal mothers" like Baldwin aid and influence policing policies to this day.

Lola Baldwin's fascinating story evokes the flavor of urban life in ragtime America, when police power increasingly became the watchdog of social morality.

Member of AAUP