Lola Greene Baldwin was one of Portland’s few great heroes, and it’s most important police officer – the first woman police officer in the nation.

Her story plays tonight on Oregon Experience, 9 PM on OPB.

On April 1, 1908 Lola G. Baldwin was sworn in “to perform police service” for Portland, Oregon and became the nation’s first policewoman. As Superintendent of the new Women’s Protective Division, Detective Baldwin crusaded for the moral and physical welfare of young, single working women. Her goal was to prevent them from being lured into lives of prostitution and crime by offering positive alternatives and by making the city safe.

But early 20th century Portland was rampant with vice and corruption, and ragtime America was shaking traditional values apart. Baldwin and her officers policed environments they believed bred corruption including the many amusement parks, dance halls and saloons around town.

Other cities around the country, including Tacoma and Seattle, were watching Portland’s experiment with women police and invited Baldwin to help them organize their own women’s protective divisions.

Policewoman Baldwin was instrumental in developing new preventive strategies in the community that influence policing policies to this day. Even after she retired in 1922, she continued to lobby for equal benefits for women police officers everywhere.

There is an exhibit about Lola Baldwin at the Portland Police Museum, part of the Portland Police Historical Society.

EXTRA – Lola Greene Baldwin Foundation – prostitution recovery

EXTRA – America’s first policewoman, from Mike Bailey at The Columbian