Oregon Experience: Lola G. Baldwin

Photo courtesy of
Portland Police Historical Society

On April 1, 1908, Lola G. Baldwin was sworn in as Portland's -- and the nation's first policewoman. For fourteen years she led a crusade against urban vice and corruption and championed the moral and physical welfare of families and single working women.

Premiers Thursday, May 15, 2008 at 9 p.m. on OPB-TV.

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About the Program

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.

City of Portland Proclamation: Lola Greene Baldwin Centennial Day

Proclamation document
(click to view full size)

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.

About the Program
Meet Portland's first policewoman
View a collection of Lola Baldwin photos, early 20th century Portland and the Portland Police Department
In Lola's Words
Excerpts of her writing on women police and moral issues of her day
The War Years
More about Baldwin's activities during WWI
Find out more about the life and legacy of Lola G. Baldwin
Program Credits

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