Police Matron in Dickinson

Jan 16, 2018


Women have been serving as police officers for more than a century in the United States. While the earliest of these women is not known, there are records that show a Marie Owens on duty with the Chicago Police Department in the 1890s.


Early records also note a different role: that of police matron. The police matron differed from a policewoman because she did not have sworn powers. Instead, as noted in an article published in 1949, she provided a type of human aid service. She could perform a number of duties, but they frequently involved youth, families, and troubled women.

In 1949, a number of traits or experiences were considered good indications that a woman would be well-suited to serve as a matron.

* She might be a woman who was “young mentally,” and could learn from other people;

* She likely had some experience as a teacher;

* She was probably a well-travelled candidate—at least in the United States;

* She would benefit from experience as a clerk in a department store;

* And she would have knowledge of various courts, welfare agencies, parks, and employment and recreation opportunities for youth, and have an understanding of public relations within the city.

In 1922, Dickinson hired their first police matron to help in monitoring public events for youth. On this date, Mrs. S. L. Carroll was just beginning her service as police matron under the recommendation of Police Commissioner Dinsdale. One of her duties was to "supervise all public affairs" such as dances – acting as chaperone to make sure everyone stayed in line. As such, the Dickinson Press published this notice:

"Dickinson terpsichorean artists, who in the past have taken great delight in attracting attention by their suggestive and sensational antics at public dances, have been forced to 'take to the woods,' for Dickinson now has a police matron whose chief duty is to ...bring offenders to time."

Matron Carroll had already done so at one dance, telling anyone acting in an untoward way to shape up or leave, proving her mettle, and winning public approval.

The Dickinson Press

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Volume 39, Issue 4, 1949. The Role of the Police Matron by J. Roy Leevy.  https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3616...

The Dickinson Press, January 21, 1922