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On April 1, 1908 Lola G. Baldwin was sworn in “to perform police service” for Portland, Oregon and became the nation’s first policewoman. As Superintendent of the new Women’s Protective Division, Detective Baldwin crusaded for the moral and physical welfare of young, single working women. Her goal was to prevent them from being lured into lives of prostitution and crime by offering positive alternatives and by making the city safe.
But early 20th century Portland was rampant with vice and corruption, and ragtime America was shaking traditional values apart. Baldwin and her officers policed environments they believed bred corruption including the many amusement parks, dance halls and saloons around town.
Other cities around the country, including Tacoma and Seattle, were watching Portland’s experiment with women police and invited Baldwin to help them organize their own women’s protective divisions.
Policewoman Baldwin was instrumental in developing new preventive strategies in the community that influence policing policies to this day. Even after she retired in 1922, she continued to lobby for equal benefits for women police officers everywhere.
April 1, 2008 marked the 100th Anniversary of the hiring of Lola Baldwin as America’s first policewoman. To honor Detective Baldwin’s achievements, Portland Mayor Tom Potter proclaimed April 1, 2008 as Lola Greene Baldwin Centennial Day.
Myers, Gloria E., A Municipal Mother
Lansing Jewel, Portland: People, Politics and Power 1851 – 2001
Hills, Tim The Many Lives of the Crystal Ballroom
A site about the history of Portland’s amusement park. The site discusses Baldwin’s moral concerns about The Oaks during post Victorian Portland and the varying degrees of influence she had over its operations.
Broadcast Date: May 15, 2008