This small but ambitious book in the Women of Action series profiles 16 American women who were or are involved in law enforcement, describing their specific jobs while simultaneously showing the painfully slow entry of women into this field.
The author’s recommendation of “adult guidance for younger readers” is not to be dismissed lightly: after a brief introduction, the first chapter uses the example of a young, flogged-to-death pregnant prisoner to underline the urgency for social reform in the 1800s. Next, the text gives short biographies of the first women to work in law enforcement: the so-called matrons who paved the way for “police in petticoats.” With each biography, and in many of the sidebars, readers are presented with examples of sexism that still plagues the field, from the combination gun holster/makeup kit for 1942 policewomen in New York City through the elimination of all female FBI agents from 1929 to 1972 to the premature resignation of the FBI’s first female profiler in 1984, due to feeling “constantly under evaluation by the all-male managers.” Most of the biographies concentrate on women who have persevered to do work that gives them satisfaction for reasons both personal and altruistic. Commendably, biographical information extends into 2015. The writing is generally accessible, so the overuse of exclamation points feels condescending.
A suitable introduction to the field of law enforcement with a salutary, rarely seen focus. (author’s note, introduction, resources, notes, bibliography, index) (Nonfiction. 13-18)