International Association of Women Police International Association of Women Police International Association of Women Police International Association of Women Police International Association of Women Police International Association of Women Police SeniorUN Heritage Winners WomenPolice Magazine



International Association of Women Police

Read History in the 2015 Centennial Brochure PDF

The IAWP was first organized as the International Policewomen's Association in 1915. Their charter was adopted in 1916 in Washington, D.C.. The IAWP became a "Depression casualty" in 1932, before the programs and ideals set into motion by the organization had been fully implemented.

Women have been involved with police work in the United States since 1845, when they were assigned duty as matrons in New York City. In 1893 Mrs. Marie Owens, the widow of a policeman, was appointed to the force of Chicago Police Department by the mayor. She was the first woman given the rank of "policeman" with power of arrest.

In 1910 Mrs. Alice Stebbins Wells of Los Angeles, California, became the first woman classified as a "policewoman." Mrs. Wells, a graduate theological student and social worker, prevailed after presenting to the mayor a petition bearing signatures of prominent citizens. [ Short History Wells ]

Following her appointment, Mrs. Wells pioneered enforcement techniques aimed at preventing problems with youths. Her duties included enforcing laws that governed conduct at dance halls, skating rinks, penny arcades, movies, and other places of recreation attended by women and children. Eventually her efforts at promoting women for police activities to protect youths and prevent crime took root; our present-day juvenile bureaus and crime-prevention units can be traced directly to the foundations laid by Mrs. Wells.  In 1926, the organization was incorporated as The International Association of Policewomen under the non-profit status. 

IAWP Election of Officers 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio
From Libby Lytle, former Region 5 Coordinator

I found some interesting data from elections of officers in May 1927 from the annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I feel that since we are during an election time it might be interesting to those members who are participating.

A amendment was passed for the addition of two Vice-Presidents and a Board of Directors. Miss Eleanor Hutzel, from Detroit Michigan was elected 1st Vice-President and Miss Dorothy Doan Henry from Cleveland, Ohio was elected 2nd Vice-President. The five Board of Directors elected were Miss Henrietta Additon from Philadelphia, PA., Lieutenant John Brandenburger, St. Louis, MO., Miss Jessie Binford, Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Katharine Bement Davis from New York City, and Miss Mary Driscoll from Boston, MA. These 5 represented the Executive Board.

Several regional Chairmen were selected as follows: Miss Anna B. Mangan from Lynn, MA., Mrs. Mary Sullivan from New York City, Miss Annette Steele from Knoxville, TN., Mrs. Mable Rockwell from Chicago, IL., Mrs. Beulah McNeil from Kenosha, WI., Mrs. Inah M. Peterson from Witchita, Kansas, and Miss Martha Randall from Portland, OR.

Delegates from 40 cities and 26 states made the annual meeting the largest ever held by the Association. In July of 1927 the Association was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia where it remains as a corporation todate.

This was obtained from the Journal of Social Hygiene Volume XIII 1927.

In 1956, at a meeting in San Diego of Women Peace Officer of California, the association was reorganized as the International Association of Police Women and the dormant ideas and ideals formed years earlier were again implemented. Mrs. Wells lived to see the new organization.  In May of 1969,  the charter was changed to reflect the new name, International Association of Women Police. [ PDF Incorporation Document ]

The first biannual meeting of the IAWP was held at Purdue University in 1957. Although membership in the IAWP remained modest through the 1960's, the organization began holding 3-day seminars in 1963.

Under the tutelage of Director Lois Higgins, the new President, the IAWP began to grow and change. Dr. Higgins, a 30 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, held the office of President of the IAWP for eight years and served as the Executive Director for another twelve years.

The IAWP, through its Constitution and its activities, promoted the idea of separate women's bureaus because many women felt this was their only opportunity for advancement. Before 1969 women officers were never assigned patrol duty and many did not even own uniforms. Their duties were still restricted to those performed by Mrs. Wells.

In 1966 IAWP's first official publication, The IAWP Bulletin, appeared. It was edited and printed by Mary Rita Ostrander until 1970.

In more recent years, as the membership as grown, the IAWP Annual Training Conferences have become forums for research conducted by universities and professional organizations. the seminars have also attracted experts in diverse fields of criminal justice who share their views and disseminate important information to the members. Meeting for five days, women and men assemble from all over the world to broaden their knowledge through workshops and through lectures in a formal classroom setting. The friendships made and the informal exchanges of ideas and information are as enlightening as the formal sessions.

The recent upsurge in the numbers of female law-enforcement officers around the world has enhanced the IAWP. The Association now spans the globe with 26 regions; hopefully the Association will someday have a region in every country in the world. Members in countries, states and provinces, cities and counties have formed affiliate chapters to provide support and training to officers who cannot attend the IAWP Training Conferences.

Although the IAWP was established primarily to benefit police women, it was recognized that a healthy criminal justice system requires that cohesiveness, professionalism and communication exist between men and women. Since 1976 male officers have been IAWP members.

History was made in 1996 as the IAWP held the Annual Training Conference in Birmingham, England. This was the first time a conference has been held outside of North America. The 1997 Annual Conference will be held in Dallas, Texas and in Anchorage, Alaska in 1998.

History was again made in 2009 when the Bangladesh Women's Police Network pledged 500 memberships to the IAWP.  The IAWP President, Jane Townsley, was in attendance.  You can read about this historic United Nations and Bangladesh Police cooperation here.  And IAWP President, Jane Townsley, was present in November at the first meeting of the SEE WPON (South East Europe Women Police Officers Network-see photos)

The IAWP's star design logo was approved for exclusive use by the IAWP on April 19, 2011.  You can see the approval record here.
The IAWP's Letters "I A W P" were approved for trademark use on June 14, 2013.  You can see the approval record here.

The IAWP can provide a strong network of support and training for every woman and man in the criminal justice system. If you are a law enforcement professional, you need to be informed about this organization. For more information email the IAWP Regional Coordinator in your area. 

IAWP, The Past and Present

Policewomen: Their First Century and the New Era Article IACP

Who Was the First Policewoman? Article

Woman Citizen Article - August 8, 1925

Woman's Journal Article - May 1931


Wells' Badge Article

Wells' Death Notice August 18, 1957

Alice Wells LAPD

Alice Wells, LA Times 1915

Alice Wells LAPD

Alice with Badge

Wells' Official Badge