Prevention of crime, corrective measures in considering moral delinquents, the saving of young girls and protection. of children are recognized by all as most important factors in social progress; and while it is always acknowledged that "the natural attitude of women is to act in response to human need," communities have still been terribly slow in realizing that if ever human need called more insistently for the application of the natural attitude of women it was from the police department, -- that point toward which is drifting, as one writer puts it, "the reckless waste of humanity that reaches the scrap heap before ever attaining its prime."
Knowing as I did that two million children, between 10 and 15 years of age were at labor in the United States, and that the number was constantly increasing; that 500,000 girls and women earned their living in the United States by the sale of their bodies; that Maryland contributed to that number; that 1,000 children under 10 years were assaulted in Maryland in one year; that 1,000 illegitimate children were born in Baltimore alone in one year, costing the community just for hospital care $30,000; knowing from investigations of my own, made in all kinds of weather, at all hours of the day and night, under every variety of condition, from the mouths of those most affected, from the stories that were given me from mother-lips, that hundreds and hundreds of girls and young children were left to seek their own recreation and amusement under all sorts of unsafe situations, too often paying tribute in future misery and disgrace; and that men police could not cope with many of these problems, -- there was opened up an apparent haven of rescue and a very helping hand seemed extended, when I learned that a woman in Los Angeles had had courage to put the matter squarely up to her chief of police -- that women were needed to take hold of such situations, to look after women and furnish protection such as men police constantly found it impossible to give; that that same woman secured an ordinance for, and introduced into, the department a policewoman; that the experiment had worked out successfully and met with the approval of the department officials.
Some women in Baltimore had spoken of it, then forgotten about it, One society passed a resolution saying it was a good thing and then immediately went to sleep.
Gathering data in my own country and from countries in Europe where women in similar capacity had been established for some time; soliciting the opinion of judges, mayors, governors and city councilmen who had assisted in passing the measures in other cities and states after California’s experience in the field; quoting from this material and from my own personal knowledge of things transpiring in different sections of this city, of behavior in moving picture parlors, skating rinks, concert and dance halls, hotels, restaurants, cafes, rathskellcrs, theaters, re- sorts of various kind, joy-riding and public parks, all luring the youth from both the attractive and unattractive home, all a menace to decent family life, I spoke before many clubs and organizations, made personal calls upon 800 persons in Maryland, wrote hundreds of letters, secured the signatures of club women, men of business prominence, and heads of associations, and obtained personal letters from those who rarely gave them before. My efforts were not confined to one class of society; I set squarely before all sections of the city the purpose of and necessity for such a measure.
Do not think for a moment that all this was accomplished In a day or a week, or that it was an easy task to persuade the men of a southern city that policewomen were either necessary or possible; it took two and one-half years to do it, for, remember, the proposition was a new one east of the Mississippi river. The newspapers, too, had their fling at the proposed "women-cops," "women policemen," "lady-police-officers," "female police," and such other terms as they could conjure; cartoons, not always of the most artistic type, followed, while head-lines were wonderful in their originality. The things to be done by these policewomen were terrible to contemplate and so the editors and reporters amused themselves and the public, and did not. think it would come to be a serious fact.
Then came the legislative session of 1912, an act of the legislature being necessary in Maryland to authorize a law providing policewomen for Baltimore city. The bill was given by me to a democratic representative in the House of Delegates, from my own legislative district, who, after agreeing to present it, kept it 10 days and returned it to me, saying he had no time to give it proper attention. I then placed it in the hands of another delegate, a republican, with instructions to notify me as to when the committee would take it up, that I might appear before them and explain the merits of the bill; otherwise they might not give it proper consideration. He faithfully promised to do this, then promptly forgot all about it and the bill was unfavorably reported.
The morning I learned this I at once took a train for Annapolis, verified the statement as to the fate of the bill, and was told there was no further hope for it that year -- that it was dead. I replied there was hope so long as the legislature was in session. I then went to the republican governor, told him my story, the good we all wanted to see done for our young people by the passage of this measure and asked him to direct me to some one in the senate, upon whose word, if he decided to father the bill, I could depend.
This republican governor sent me to a democratic senator, and the confidence in him was not misplaced. Senators were interviewed; they were shocked and astonished at such a proposition -- for they immediately saw visions of women in uniforms and brass buttons, parading the streets with an espatoon, arresting negroes an(t drunken men. They were given another viewpoint. It was explained to them that the women would not be uniformed, not have "beats"; but that women and children in the community would be their care. They then realized the purport and wisdom of providing supervision of this kind for the youth of their city and agreed to support the bill by their vote.
The bill passed the senate and was carried to the house. Here 104 men had to be told what it really meant, told individually for fear they would misinterpret it. Only two days remained of the session. On one of these days it was necessary to remain in the state house from nine A. M. until midnight, and on the second, and last, from nine A. M. until three A. M. the following morning. Men were talked to, reminded of their promises, and the sec- ond reading of the bill waited and watched for. Then, to pass its third reading on the same day, it was necessary to suspend the rules of the house. The required number of votes to do this were obtained and the bill moved on to its final passage without a dissenting vote in either branch of the legislature. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, when I took the train for Baltimore, reaching my home at 5 A. M., weary and tired out but happy in the thought that a new law -- well worth the effort -- would be placed upon the statute books of Maryland.
Maryland paved the way for the other states and helped to remove the prejudice that has for so long been held against adding women to the police force of the state.
There is a great and wonderful field of work for the policewomen. The influence of intelligent, persistent, earnest women is needed in our police departments. Helpless women and girls can go tothem for advice, without publicity, and thus a means is provided for smoothing-out many a ditliculty in the lives of those who know not where to turn for guidance.