Women on force: a look back
Two detective sergeants are compiling the history of YPD women.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It appears Annas Sonedecker was the city's first appointed policewoman in 1914 -- until someone determined that you had to be a voter to be appointed and women didn't get to vote until 1920.
Sonedecker wasn't canned, but her title was changed to "inspector of public places." She worked with "fallen girls" who had started on a downward path, according to a Vindicator story from 1916.
Detective Sgts. Delphine Baldwin Casey and Anita Davis, who joined the department in 1978, got a chuckle out of the story and others like it. They're using old newspaper stories, civil service records and other sources to compile the history of women at the Youngstown Police Department.
Monday, Police Chief Robert E. Bush Jr. treated the detectives and his secretary, Emma Woodberry, to lunch at the Youngstown Club to discuss the project. Old photos on display in the chief's office -- with no women officers -- were Casey's inspiration.
"I thought there had to be women," Casey said.
Research at library
Casey has already spent several hours at the main library and Arms Museum doing research. She said women, such as Frances Vaughn in 1915, were relegated to jobs such as jail matron.
Vaughn did what jailers do, she searched female inmates at the city jail for concealed weapons, drugs and "other injurious articles," The Vindicator reported. The newspaper also conveyed: "Matron Vaughn has been able to study the frailties of women and in many instances has served to reform young girls who have been picked up by police in the streets."
Fallen women, the matron said, are that way because of home life and associations. Wayward girls lack a mother's care and kindly advice.
"Her home was in three small rooms adjacent to the police station," Casey said, fascinated by the facts she's turning up. "She was on duty day and night."
The photo of the matron that accompanied the story shows a stout, somber woman in a frilly dress, wearing pearls.
Casey said that in 1921 Lottie Mitchell was installed as a policewoman. By then, women could vote.
Davis said the police work for women was more social service in nature up until the 1960s. She said some did the same job as their male counterparts but didn't have the title or the pay.
"Primarily, they chased 'wayward women' and juveniles," Davis said of the first women who performed police work.
In 1934, the first year for which civil service records could be found, 14 women took the test. The seven who passed were given the title policewoman and paid $117 a month, Casey said.
"Some carried a gun, some didn't," she said. "They didn't do patrol work."
Bush said what Casey and Davis are doing will become part of community history.
"We could feature a story each week in the Golden Gazette," Bush said, referring to the weekly newsletter delivered to senior citizens. "We could also include the history as a recruiting tool."
The chief said he'd like to see the YPD women's history, when it is in book form similar to the annual report, passed out when officers have speaking engagements. He suggested that the detectives enlist the aid of Capt. Mike Vodilko, who puts together the annual report with photos.
"If we don't write our own history, it won't get written," Casey said. "As women officers, we've all made contributions."
Casey said she was flattered to find the library has two cards on her that lead readers to newspapers stories that mention her name.