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1964

Who had the power to choose their work?

Well into the 1980s, women were generally not considered qualified or physically capable of holding a police or firefighter job.

City of Bloomington

Until the early 1960s, the City of Bloomington never seriously considered hiring female police officers. But difficult circumstances forced them to consider that some work might be better done by a female officer.

Versus

Female Police Officers

Despite the potential risks of police work, some women were willing and believed they were just as qualified as a man to work in this field.

They also knew these positions offered better pay, which they could use to support their families.

Who had the power?

A Growing Problem

In 1964 Bloomington had a growing problem that needed to be addressed—underage drinking and the use of false identifications.

The city needed someone to work undercover to infiltrate the bar scene and identify underage drinkers. At the time Bloomington was also housing more females in their jail for a variety of crimes. 

Who could they hire to help them resolve these issues?

That year Bloomington hired its very first female police officer, Juanita O’Connor Reece.

When I applied for the job I was on my own and looking for something with security.
— Juanita O’Connor Reece

When Reece retired in 1985, after 21 years of service, she told Bloomington’s Pantagraph, “I’ve been called every dirty name in the book.”

Beside working undercover and at the jail, Reece also presented educational programs on drinking, drug abuse, and sexual assault to community members. Here, she stands with Bloomington Police Chief Harold Bossardt in front of a display for the department's public relations program.

Juanita O’Connor Reece’s Police Uniform, circa 1980

>View this object in Matterport

Police coat, brass police badge, leather badge wallet, police gloves.

Donated by: Larry Reece
2004.29.1, 2004.29.2, 2004.29.3, 2004.29.4.a-b

Reflection Questions

Who decided who was hired to do police work?

What attitudes or situations changed that resulted in the hiring of women?

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