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Preventive Justice: Fears Over Female Immorality in the USA Lead to Police Positions for Women, 1887 to the First World War

NCJ Number
International Journal of Police Science and Management Volume: 4 Issue: 3 Dated: 2002 Pages: 248-264
Dorothy Moses Schultz
Ian K. McKenzie
Date Published
17 pages
This article reports on research showing that policewomen acted as social control agents during the late 1890's, early 1900's, and intensified by WWI, when definitions of the "ideal woman" and "women's place" in the public arena were changing radically.
This report propounds the theory that middle-class women in the United States of America, both white and African-American, used the concept of "women's sphere" prior to and during the progressive era. As a result, women's groups advocated and lobbied for police matrons and policewomen based on their belief of a higher moral standard for women than for men. Using the language of social work and crime prevention, matrons and policewomen were able to control and/or intervene in the lives of immigrant, poor, or young women whose sexual or public amusement behavior was at odds with native-born, middle-class women's ideas of "womanhood." Though punishment of these women's behavior was not the original intention of these middle-class policewomen, they eventually found that criminalizing the conduct of young and immigrant women assured their own professional growth and opportunity. Thus, the conduct of young women, that had been previously dealt with informally, became defined as criminal behavior and was now formally punished in the period prior to and during World War II to move from maternal rhetoric to social control. References