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Women in City Government

Women in the Police Department: Offering Kindness, Firmness, and Discretion

A few women were employed by the City before 1900, often when their services could be used to assist other women and children. The Police Department was one of the places the services of women were needed.

police matrons
Police matrons

The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) petitioned the Mayor and City Council in November of 1889 and again in 1891 to create the office of police matron, "whose duties shall be . . . searching, caring for and having charge of females who may be arrested by the city authorities." Sarah C. Bowman asked to be appointed to this position in 1889, stating she had "wide experience in Police Matron work." In December 1889 the Committee on Health and Police, chaired by Harry White, recommended postponing creating the position until a new jail was built with "proper accommodations." The WCTU asked that one of their members, Mrs. Jaycox, be appointed to the position in 1891. In 1891, the Committee on Health and Police again gave an unfavorable recommendation, citing budgetary reasons.

The City was forced to act in 1893 because the State of Washington passed a law requiring cities with a population of over 10,000 to have one or more matrons on the police force to have "immediate care of all females under arrest and while detained in the city prison, until they are finally discharged . . ." The City Council Committee on Police recommended a salary of $50.00 per month.

Emma Taylor
Emma Taylor

Emma Taylor was hired as Police Matron in 1893. She was 44 years old, a widow, of English descent, 5'4" and 114 pounds, and a former dressmaker. Residing at 623 Yesler Avenue, she was the only woman listed of the 63 people on the Police rolls in 1893.

Matrons lacked the powers of police officers and could not make arrests. They worked most frequently with women and children. In her 1896 Report to the Board of Police Commissioners, Taylor described the needs of women and girls brought to her:

"Young girls on the brink of ruin must be reproved, advised and governed, they require kindness, firmness and discretion."

She also described providing women with clothes, combs and towels of her own, paying for her own streetcar fare as well as that of others, and paying for a telephone out of her own salary.

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