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Women in City Government

Women Finding their Place in the City

playground brochure
Playground brochure

Although many women worked as clerks, telephone operators, and stenographers in the first half of the 20th century, women were most often seen in nurturing and caring roles, working with other women and children in the library, the police department and the parks department. Women secured positions by working for less pay, or in some cases, working for free.

Collins Playfield
Collins Playfield

The playground movement began in the early 1900s as a means of promoting organized play for children, deterring them from the evils of the streets and serving as crime prevention. Women often were hired as playground supervisors by the Parks Department to oversee the organized play of girls during the summer. The Recreation Division of the Parks Department was established in 1910 and playground supervisors were hired. In 1917 men were paid $90 per month; women were paid $80.

The Parks Department and the Library worked together to provide services to children at several parks, including Collins, Beacon Hill, Miller, Ross and South Park.

Corinne Carter
Carter appointment
Carter appointment
One of the few female African Americans mentioned in early City records is
Corinne Carter (Mrs. W. D. Carter). She worked with African American children brought to the Police Department. Carter started working for the Police Department as a volunteer around 1912. She was designated "Special Policewoman" in 1914, which relieved her "of the burden of applying her own limited funds towards the payment of car fare" in her travel throughout the city. Her work for the City, however, remained unpaid.

Carter was married to Reverend W. D. Carter, pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church, one of the oldest and largest African American churches in the city. Her work with children in the Police Department helped her understand the importance of having overnight accommodations for newcomers, especially for African Americans and females. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Phillis Wheatley Branch of the YWCA at Twenty-fourth and Howell. It offered social, educational, and employment programs to African American girls, as well as overnight accommodations for out-of-town girls.

Sylvia Hunsicker
Sylvia Hunsicker
Sylvia Hunsicker
civil service cards
Civil service cards
Some women made their own "place," sometimes in conflict with expectations of their superiors. Sylvia Hunsicker was hired by the City as a Registration Clerk in 1911. In 1915 she transferred to the Police Department. She was the only woman in the Police Department who wore a uniform; lore states she sewed her own in 1925.

Her independence was a hallmark of her career. She was discharged or suspended more than once. In 1917 one of the reasons cited was "engaging in work other than that assigned to her." She retired in 1936 at age 67.

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