New Evidence: America’s First Female Cop was from Chicago

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Chicago Police Department Paddy Wagon


Historical inconsistencies have clouded which woman holds the distinction of being the nation’s first police officer.

The Chicago Tribune reports that one Windy City historian has uncovered some clues pointing toward a new name.

Rick Barrett, a former Drug Enforcement Administration employee turned historian, came across Marie Owens’ name in a law enforcement context in the 1890s. That finding would refute the city’s data of 1913 being the first year that a woman served on its police force.

Barrett’s claim has a national context, especially among conflicting reports as to which female face is deserving of the title.

The Tribune notes that pair of West Coast cities – Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. – have dueled over that right. The California metropolis touts its 1910 hire was the inaugural move, while its Pacific Northwest neighbor vows that its 1908 hire was the history maker. If the Owens reference is accurate, her tenure beats both of those claims by nearly two decades.