Chicago is a historic city for many reasons, and if a federal agent’s (retired) claims ring true, the city may be known for the first female police officer.
Researcher Rick Barrett, a history enthusiast and former DEA officer, claims that while researching Chicago Police Officers long-forgotten, he came across the name of Marie Owens while working on another project in 2007. Barrett comes from a long line of men serving the Chicago Police Department (CPD); his father, grandfather, and great grandfather were officers in the Windy City.
According to theChicago Sun-Times, Owens was a “solidly built woman with long dark hair” who grew up in Ottawa, Canada. When she was in her twenty’s, she married, and moved with her husband to Chicago.
When her husband died, Owens had five children; she sought work, and began a job as a factory inspector enforcing child labor laws.
As public pressure grew around anti-child labor laws, Marie Owens moved from the factory floor to the CPD in 1891; “She was given powers of arrest, the title of detective sergeant and a police star.”
In a newspaper story written in 1904, Owens relayed her duties to the public, highlighting how she found “frail little things” working in horrid conditions throughout the city. During her career, she began schools so that children could be educated while working, and also pressured factories to cut the number of hours children worked.
After 32-years with the CPD, she retired in 1923.
According to Barrett, Owens was probably the nation’s first female police officer. For more history on Chicago’s first woman officer, check out the story in the Sun-Times.