In honor of National Women’s History Month, we remember these bold and brave women of the BPD!
Over 100 years ago, five women joined the Boston Police Department back in April of 1921, an ex-police officer from Washington, DC, two housewives, two stenographers, and a nurse.
Named the “flapper squad’’ by the local press, Irene C. Baumbach, Anges J. Callahan, Margaret McHugh, Irene C. McAuliffe, and Lillian A. Taylor were sworn in by BPD Commissioner Edwin Curtis. The women were issued badges, but no uniforms, police cruisers, or firearms.
Basically, they were hired to watch out for young women in Boston, who might fall prey to creeps lurking about the city. They were also in charge of tracking down runaway kids and keeping young ladies from drinking with sailors and hanging out in nightclubs. Other duties included chasing shoplifters, con artists, and jewel thieves.
The female officers were no shrinking violets either, they were tough as nails. According to an article on Boston.com, they used force when needed and were not afraid to engage in fistfights. They made arrests without the aid of weapons or handcuffs.
Irene Bohmbach, 1936
Decorated officer, Irene Bohmbach, was tied for the second-best score on the sergeant’s exam. She scored higher than hundreds of men, including her own husband, also on the force. Did she get the promotion? Of course not! Commissioner Eugene Hultman passed her over numerous because it “might cause discord in the home.’’ Bohmbach’s husband was eventually promoted before she was.
Paving the way for Margaret McHugh – 1924
Back in 1924, Officer Margaret McHugh, a 200-pound strongly built officer, known for her knack of tracking down stolen merch, got into a beef with an out-of-control, drunk man who was blocking traffic in Roxbury. When the man refused to leave, and punched Officer McHugh in the face. She was knocked to the ground but quickly jumped to her feet. It was “go time!” She returned favor by punching him in the face, knocking him to the ground. The “gentleman” had to be taken to the hospital. Don’t f*ck with Margaret.
Glamour Girl – 1943
The department stopped hiring women until the 1940s. In 1943, Margaret Foley was hired. She was known for her love of fashion and was referred to as a “glamour girl” by the press. But don’t let the fancy fashion fool you. In 1949, she was confronted by a drunken restaurant patron who was flashing a gun at a downtown restaurant. Foley was able to get the gun away from him and dragged him by the neck outside of the restaurant where she commandeered a cab and took him to the police station.
It wasn’t until 1972, that female officers – referred to as policewomen were issued guns and uniforms – which was a navy blue double-knit dress. Pants were optional.
We’ve come a long way, baby
As the 101st anniversary of the appointment of the first women officers to the Boston Police Department, we thank them for being brave and bold enough to pave the way for the many female members of the BPD.
Image of women interviewing in 1943 for BPD via Boston Globe
Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.
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