“I like to do police work, it gives me a chance to help women and children who need help.”- Marie Owens
Though Los Angeles and Portland have both laid claim to having hired the first female police officers in the early 1900’s, recent research confirms that the city of Chicago actually has bragging rights for that title. They hired Marie Owens in 1891.
Marie was a poor Irish woman, who was left a widow with five children to raise when her husband died of typhoid fever in 1888. She took a job as one of only five female factory inspectors who enforced child-labor laws and compulsory education laws. She was transferred to the police department in 1891.
Because of her own struggles, she knew what it was like to be in need. She worked tirelessly to help the poor, focusing especially on women and children. She established schools within department stores so young workers could be educated, and she also lobbied and won shorter work days for young employees.
During her career as a police officer, she helped thousands of children to secure better working conditions and lead improved lives.
She retired in 1923, after serving the department for 32 years. She passed away four years later, at the age of 74.