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Arts & Culture

OREGON EXPERIENCE: Lola G. Baldwin

OPB | April 21, 2008 10:30 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 5, 2013 11:13 a.m.

On April 1, 1908 Lola Greene Baldwin was sworn in to perform police service for the city of Portland and became the nation’s first policewoman. The next installment in Oregon Public Broadcasting’s OREGON EXPERIENCE series examines the life and work of Detective Baldwin who made it her mission to crusade for the moral and physical welfare of young, single working girls and prevent them from being lured into lives of prostitution and crime. Tune in to the stations of OPB on Thursday, May 15 at 9pm.

Baldwin was born in Elmyra, New York in 1860. She dropped out of high school to support herself and two sisters when her father died unexpectedly. She would go on to earn a teaching certificate and taught school in Nebraska where she met and married dry goods merchant LeGrand Baldwin. After the birth of her two sons, Lola got involved in social work, volunteering at homes for unwed mothers and prisoner’s aid societies.

In 1904, the Baldwin family moved to Portland where Lola was appointed supervisor of the local chapter of the Traveler’s Aid Society organized to help protect young women coming to Portland in search of jobs during the 1905 Exposition.

During the fair, Baldwin reported helping more than 1,600 young women find safe lodging and employment. She was so successful she later convinced Portland’s City Council to fund her position under the police department’s jurisdiction. That required a civil service exam, and when she passed, Lola Baldwin was sworn in as the nation’s first municipally paid policewoman.

Other cities around the country noticed Portland’s grand experiment with women police. Baldwin was instrumental in helping Tacoma, Seattle and other cities set up their own Women’s Protective Divisions. After 14 years of service she retired in 1922 but continued to lobby fiercely for equal benefits for women police. Lola Greene Baldwin died in 1957 at the age of 97. She pioneered a new profession for female cops and her legacy lives on in the thousands of women who followed in her footsteps.

About OREGON EXPERIENCE
OREGON EXPERIENCE is an exciting new history series on OPB-TV that brings to life fascinating stories that help us understand who we are and that reinforce our shared identity as Oregonians. The series, co-produced by the Oregon Historical Society and Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), takes advantage of the extensive film, video and stills from the archives of OHS and OPB, and draws upon the expertise of OHS researchers and historians. Each half-hour show features captivating characters — both familiar and forgotten — who have played key roles in building our state into the unique place we call home. Funding for OREGON EXPERIENCE is provided in part by Ann & Bill Swindells Charitable Trust, James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation and Oregon Cultural Trust.

About OPB
OPB is the state’s most far-reaching and accessible media resource, providing free access to programming for children and adults designed to give voice to community, connect Oregon and its neighbors and illuminate a wider world. Every week, over 1.5 million people tune in to or log on to OPB’s Television, Radio and Internet services. As the hub of operations for the state’s Emergency Broadcast and Amber Alert services, OPB serves as the backbone for the distribution of critical information to broadcasters and homes throughout Oregon. Oregon Public Broadcasting is a statewide network that includes OPB Television, an affiliate of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and OPB Radio, presenting local news coverage and the programs of National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM). The OPB Web site is opb.org.

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