Literary Digest - August 23, 1913
POLICEWOMEN IN CHICAGO
Chicago's latest novelty in the establishment of a squad of policewomen on the regular force is not an innovation so real as apparent, in the view of some editorial observers, among them The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison), which calls attention to the fact that "within the last few months all over the country women have been appointed on the police force, even in the States which do not have equal franchise." In this connection it is remarked by some that Chicago's ten original policewomen "ought to be able to demonstrate very speedily the wisdom of the Illinois Legislature in giving women the vote," while others, noting that unquestionably there is special work cut out for the policewomen, offer in evidence, among their several qualifications, the experience of man European countries that the policewoman is "the best and most effective agent" in the fight against "the monster of modern society" known as "the white slaver." Of the ten Chicago women added to the staff of Chief of Police McWeeny by appointment of Mayor Harrison, we read in the press, eight are widows. Their ages run from twenty-five to fifty, and their height from 100 pounds to 170 pounds. The present appointments, we learn, are for a period of sixty days, after which the Civil Service Commission will hold regular examinations for the positions. The particular duty of the policewomen, it is generally forecasted, will be to see to the protection of women and children; altho, with the full authority of a policeman, they will have to be prepared to meet whatever exceptional duty chances on their beat. But this is just where the trouble comes in, according to the New York World, which questions the wisdom of chicago's new move, altho it admits that:
"There is plenty of police work that women might do to advantage. As sanitary police, as special officers of the Health Department, they certainly would not prove more inefficient or careless than men. All the business of the police is not to deal with criminals and rowdies and violent persons of both sexes. But there is emergency work any policeman must be ready to do at a moment's notice. When Officer Blank, in natty blue jacket and skirt, with star on her breast, hears of a hold-up or murder in a low dive on the Levee in Chicago, what is she going to do? Will she seize the murderer red-handed, wrest his smoking pistol from him, and march him off to the corner, bruised and subdued, to wait for the wagon, while a mob clamors for his life? Until Chicago has settled this delicate question of a woman's physical disability for the rougher duties of the police, less progressive communities will probably prefer to wait and get along as best they can in the old-fashioned way."
In complete disagreement with such a stand is the Chicago Daily News, hlding that Chicago's policewomen signalize the passing of the old notion that "any officer of the law must be a heavy-footed and more or less slow-witted male person armed with a formidable club and a revolver." We are reminded that New York and Chicago have some time since discovered the superiority as policemen of the "clean-limbed, alert, tall, and vigorous" type of young man, and The News adds:
"But the appointment of women to the police force goes further and throws the emphasis upon sympathy and understanding instead of upon mere muscle. Tho the new appointees constitute a novelty, they will doubtless be able to discharge their duties effectively, for the conditions have long been preparing for just such a departure. The success of women as probation officers and in other positions of trust and responsiblity has prepared the women themselves ad also the community for women police officers. Chicago welcomes its new guardians and is well assured that they will prove their usefulness on bathing-beach and playground and in public dance halls and other places where the young, and especially young girls, are exposed to peculiar dangers."
Along this line the Charleston News and Courier points out as a defect of American police systems that they have not properly dealt with the white-slave traffic, which "grew to immense proportions before the police really knew what was going on," whereas in Europe policewomen have won a splendid record for themselves in this field of activity. The Police Commissioner of Scotland Yard, The News and Courier tells us, testified before the International Congress in London that in this crusade he believes the assistance of policewomen "to be essential to success," which leads the Charleston newspaper to suggest:
"If the woman policeman is really the best instrument which the law can find with which to combat the evil which probabaly costs America more than any other country on the globe, by all means let us have women policemen at once. We can go to school in Europe for learning of many sorts, and perhaps this is a matter in which we can profit from her experience."