because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Alice Stebbins Wells

Alice Stebbins Wells started out as a minister in Kansas, but by the time she arrived in Los Angeles, California, in her thirties, she had decided she wanted to be a police officer. In-your-face women had been hired as private detectives. In-your-face women had been hired to take care of women prisoners. But Wells wanted to wear a badge and hit the streets like uniformed men officers who enforced and upheld the law.

She had to petition the mayor, the police commissioner, and the Los Angeles City Council, but she finally pulled it off, being sworn in on September 12, 1910, and equipped with a badge, a police officer's telephone call box, and a rule book. She was so effective that, in no time at all, the order went out that female suspects could only be questioned by a woman (which would have to be Wells, of course, until a few more women were added to the roll).

Other police departments in the U.S. and in other countries soon followed Los Angeles' example, so that, by the time Wells retired thirty years later, she had established an International Policewoman's Association, as well as the Women's Peace Officers Association of California. A movie about her life was produced in 1914. And when she died in 1957, high ranking members of the LAPD attended her funeral, at which ten women officers formed an honor guard in Wells' memory. In-your-face women don't necessarily want to join everything, but when they do want to join, it's very difficult to keep them out of the club.

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