Women in Louisville Police Department

October 8, 2010 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, Social history

I looked up the history of the Louisville Metro Police Department to see when women and african americans were first allowed to be a part of the program. In 1921, Alice Dunlop was the first women to join the team and in 1923 the first african american joined which brought the total number of women to four. Also in 1923, Page Hemphill and William Woods were the first african american men to be hired to join the police force.

However, in 1938, the four women on the police force were dismissed because it was a common thought that there were no duties suited for police women. The next police women was not hired until 1943. And in 1969, Urania Laun became the first female sergeant which is obviously a great accomplishment.

I think it’s really disappointing to hear that Louisville made a step in the right direction by hiring women to be on the police but took ten steps backward when they dismissed them because they weren’t seen as fit for the job. As we all know today, women can hold any position that a man can and it’s unfortunate that a city police department didn’t see that.

10 responses to Women in Louisville Police Department

  1. Your’e insight on women in the police force during this time is interesting frankly because I would have assumed that it was non existent. Like you said it is a bit disheartening to hear that they were let go after 15 years, they must have been getting something accomplished if they held their positions on the force for that amount of years.

  2. The idea that women would be removed from the front lines of law enforcement in the conservative times of early 20th century makes sense – that’s when a lot of organizations were closing down opportunities for women. The University of Kentucky faculty administration, for example, shut down their women’s basketball team in 1924 despite the fact that the women had more championships than the men’s team – because Kentuckians thought the game was too “strenuous” for women and higher education leaders felt that this kind of competitive sports was promoting undesireable characteristics in their women students. See a short chronology of UK women’s basketball at

    • It’s amazing to find this out. Especially when our men’s program is revered by so many to be one of the greatest traditions in college basketball. This makes me wonder if the two programs would have developed differently than they have today had the women’s program never been cut.

  3. It is so odd and sad when organizations seem so ahead of their time then suddenly take three steps backward. According to My Kentucky history class with professor Hood. Center College in Kentucky was integrated before the Civil War than became segregated after.

  4. You tell’em Becca! There was a new administration that came into power in 1938 in Louisville. Joseph D. Scholtz, a Democrat, was the new mayor and during his term he increased the wages of Black teachers in Louisville. Women as teachers, but not women as police officers. Governor Lazarus Powell, a Democrat, was serving his last year in 1938 and the Know Nothings were about to take charge.

  5. This is clearly very positive for Louisville and of course women. Being that Louisville was the most progressive city in the state, it makes since that they would allow women on the force at such a time, right after the first world war. Women were finally being seen as more equal and more capable of doing work previously viewed as mens work only. The first Black women was hired on Lexingtons Police force in 1949, according to the African American Database on UK’s website.

  6. Although Louisville took steps to put women on the force, we also have to understand the time period and the sterotypes place on women at the time.

  7. Also, it’s hard to understand why women were taken off of the police force even though they were given the right to vote just a few years earlier. It’s what someone else said, “one step forward, two steps backward.” Were the Louisville Police supervisors being ridiculed for this? Or were they fearful of the shift of power to women?

  8. Your piece on women in the police force is very interesting to me since a major portion of my family are police officers. It blows my mind to know that women were shunned from protection services until the mid-1900s. Thank you to all the female police officers who make this country a better place!

  9. This was really rather interesting to read. I’m from Louisville and I don’t know much about the history of the police force at all. The fact that they tried is definitely a great accomplishment for the time period, keeping that in mind. But since it was also the 20s-40s that this all happened, most of America had in their minds of “women should be in the home, taking care of the kids” et cetera. Women were still seen as fragile, even though that is definitely not true in all cases.

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