Saint Paul Police Women's Oral History Project
(b) Statewide Historic and Cultural Grants. (i) $2,250,000 in 2010 and $4,500,000 in 2011 are appropriated for history programs and projects operated or conducted by or through local, county, regional or other historical or cultural organizations; or for activities to preserve significant historic and cultural resources. Funds are to be distributed through a competitive grants process. The Minnesota Historical Society shall administer these funds using established grants mechanisms, and with assistance from the advisory committee created herein.
The Saint Paul Police Women’s Oral History Project documents the history and culture of this unique, 156 year-old metropolitan department, through oral history interviews of current and former officers. The interviews are produced in audio /compact disc and/or print format. The goals of the project are for inspiration and understanding of sister officers; academic evaluation and learning; historic preservation; and to increase public appreciation and understanding of the challenges of the female officers who serve the Saint Paul citizenry.
This Women’s project that provides 13 female interviews is a continuation of the larger The Saint Paul Police Department Oral History Project in which over 40 interviews have been completed. Throughout the male interviews it repeatedly became clear females had different experiences than male officers and a separate and extensive project had to be created to collect the female stories.
Initially in Saint Paul policing, females worked as “matrons” in the jail. Later females were hired as “police women”, and were required to have a bachelor degree and social work experience; they were paid a detective salary, and primarily assigned to work in juvenile division. Male officers needed none of this qualifications. The last female hired as a “police woman” was in 1961. The first female to go through the same academy as male officers was in 1975, but it was not until 1977 when females began to join the department in numbers—six females. In 2009 Saint Paul had 109 female officers (including one assistant Chief) out of the full force of 613 sworn officers from street officer to chief. This is only 17% of the sworn officers. While talking to female officers it is clear that some of the challenges have changed—the first female to attend the same academy as male officers had to wear a uniform cut for a male body, now uniforms are easily obtained for female figures. And yet in many ways, the challenges and discrimination are as fierce as they were in the 1970s.
Some of the interviews in this project include:
- Retired Lieutenant Carolen Bailey (1961-1991)
- Sergeant Pamela Barragan (1999- )
- Sergeant Constance Bennett (1996- )
- Retired Assistant Chief Nancy Diperna (1980-2010)
- Retired Commander Beverly Hall (1980-2007)
- Retired Sergeant Jane Laurence (1989-2010)
- Commander Tina McNamara (1983- )
- Retired Senior Commander Deborah Montgomery (1975-2003)
- Sergeant Julia Rudie (1990 - )
- Officer Lucia Wroblewski (1980- )