|Birth: ||Nov. 7, 1916|
|Death: ||May 15, 2001|
Law Enforcement Figure: First Female Homicide Detective in the United States. Madeleine Baker served the Columbus, Ohio Police Department from 1946 to 1972. She joined the Homicide Squad as a detective in 1953 and spent the remainder of her career there. In the late 1950s articles about her appeared in several German police magazines, noting her as "The American Lady Detective". In 1968 she earned recognition at the annual International Police Chiefs Convention for her outstanding work in law enforcement, the only woman among 11 people given that honor.
From the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, Feb 23 1995:
"When Madeleine Baker joined the Columbus Police Division 49 years ago, she was called a policewoman instead of police officer - a distinction she considered unnecessary.
In her mind, she was an officer who happened to be a woman.
"I never really gave it a thought," Baker said recently. "I loved my job, and I got along real well with the men I worked with."
The 78-year-old Far East Side resident, who is now retired, joined the division in January 1946. Her interest in police work was sparked by her older brother, George Baker , a Columbus officer.
"One day he brought home a book called Homicide Investigations, and I loved it," Baker said. "It was really interesting. I was immediately intrigued by how the cases were solved, and that has stayed with me ever since."
In late 1945, when then-Mayor James A. Rhodes cited a need for more women on the force, Baker thought "it sounded like something I would like to do."
When she inquired about the job at City Hall, her timing proved good: One of the three policewomen in the division had just resigned.
Baker was hired. She and the other two female officers were assigned to the juvenile bureau; they worked in plain clothes.
"We worked on cases dealing with missing persons, child abuse and neglect, and troubled kids," Baker said.
The same year she joined the force, policewomen were brought under civil service, giving them job protection similar to that of their male counterparts. Not until four years later, in 1950, were policewomen issued uniforms and guns.
Twenty-nine years earlier, Dolly Fisher had made history by becoming the first Columbus policewoman. Fisher, who died in 1979 at 92, worked on the division's purity squad for nine years, conducting raids on bootleg joints.
Baker made her own mark in 1953, when she was named the first female detective. She was assigned to the homicide squad, which investigated homicides, suicides, suspicious deaths, aggravated assaults, sexual offenses and kidnappings.
The division, she said, wanted a woman in the detective bureau.
"There were so many women back then that didn't want to tell a man what had happened to them, especially in the case of a rape," she said.
"I could relate to that: When I was in high school, a man exposed himself to me and other students as he stood outside a classroom window. I told the teacher, and I was told that I should talk to police detectives about it. I remember being uncomfortable about talking to a man about the incident, even though they were police officers."
Baker has fond memories of her 19 years on the homicide squad.
"It was like one big happy family," she said. "I loved the guys I worked with, and I loved my job."
She remembers helping patrol officers and detectives, including her brother, dress as women to catch a rapist.
"They would come over to my house where I kept the clothes for them, and I fixed their wigs and makeup. We had a lot of fun, and I knew my neighbors had to wonder what was going on. They would first see a number of men arrive at my place, and then a while later they would see some women leave," she said with a laugh.
Baker enjoyed the homicide work, she said, because she "loved to dig into things and learn things."
"Working homicides didn't bother me. I liked talking to people, and it was challenging to get the true story out of them."
Baker retired in 1972, some 26 years after joining the division.
Today, of the 1,606-member division, 179 of the officers are women. Twelve women serve as sergeants and four are lieutenants - the highest rank a woman has held in the division.
Baker would not want to be a police officer today, she said.
"The problems with narcotics today have really changed things. We had violence back then, but today it seems more random and senseless."
When told that the division has female police lieutenants, Baker said, "They've come a long way. When I was with the division, women were not promoted."
Lt. Mary Mathias thinks female officers have made progress because more are willing to go after promotions.
"It's been a little slow for women to move up within the division," said Mathias, who works in patrol. "But that is mostly because there for a while women would not seek the promotions."
Some women, she said, prefer to tackle various assignments before pursuing a supervisory role.
Mathias sought a lieutenant job, she said, because it presented an additional challenge. She hopes women soon will be in the positions of commander and deputy chief.
"Women have the same opportunities that men do in the division," she said. "There is no discrimination in the process of getting promoted."
From the May 17, 2001 Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch:
"BAKER--Madeleine Baker , age 84, a lifelong resident of Columbus, Oh., Tuesday, May 15, 2001 at St. Angela Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Columbus. Madeleine dedicated her life to law enforcement. She was appointed as policewoman to the Columbus Division of Police July 30, 1946. She was the first woman to ever have been permanently assigned as a Homicide Detective in a major city of the United States. In 1968, at a Conference of The International Association of Chiefs of Police, she was the only woman in a group of 11 police officers who were given awards for their outstanding work in law enforcement. She is preceded in death by her parents Rollie and Marie Enginger Baker, sister Leona, brothers George, who was Detective Sgt. in the Columbus Police Department and Norbert Baker , who retired as a Captain of the Columbus Fire Department... Burial St. Joseph Cemetery..."
From the May 17, 2001 Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch:
"When Madeleine H. Baker joined the Columbus police force in 1946, officers routinely carried billy clubs and patrolled on foot -- but the women weren't permitted to carry guns or wear uniforms.
Baker ultimately proved herself, becoming the Police Division's first female detective.
Friends who are mourning her death this week say she confronted criminals and gender discrimination with equal vigor.
"She was not intimidated by men," said Julie Joseph, a narcotics officer mentored by Baker . "She was very confident and very well-respected."
Baker died Tuesday morning at St. Angela Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on the North Side. She was 84.
Like most other women in the Police Division 55 years ago, she was assigned to a desk job in the juvenile bureau, investigating reports of runaway children, child neglect and abuse.
In 1953, Baker transferred to the homicide squad, where her skills quickly attracted attention.
"That's about as big a transition as you can make," said Sgt. Earl Smith, division spokesman. "She certainly set the wheels in motion for those women entering the division today."
Joseph, 63, joined the homicide squad in 1966 and befriended Baker almost immediately.
"She loved to laugh and was fun to be around," Joseph recalled. "She was somebody to discuss issues with when at times you felt frustrated because you weren't a man."
Retired Lt. Wayne Morgan praised Baker 's work ethic.
"She was very dedicated," he said. "She loved the homicide squad. I called her many times in the middle of the night, and more often than not, she would beat me to the scene."
In today's world, Morgan said, the good-natured teasing Baker received from male colleagues "would be considered harassment."
Yet she always had an answer, he said.
"She just might snap back at you and make you wish you didn't say anything."
Baker remained in the homicide squad until her retirement in 1972. Her friends recalled her professionalism and people skills.
"She was just a nice lady, a neat lady," Joseph said. "Very knowledgeable."
Baker , she said, taught her how to hone her skills and expect equal treatment from the men.
" Madeleine was not one to sit around with a lot of bravado. She just did her job well."
Mary Brooks, who joined Baker in the juvenile bureau in 1952, said Baker 's honesty and fairness propelled her into the male-dominated specialties.
"She was very methodical, to the point, a marvelous investigator, an excellent interrogator," said Brooks, who retired in 1980. "She treated everyone with respect.
"She dealt basically with the facts. Whenever she went to court, she was ready. A lot of the fellows respected her for that.
"She could out-write any of them, out-think any of them. She never felt inferior."
Rollie Ottis Baker (1884 - 1969)
Marie Madeline Enginger Baker (1890 - 1959)
Leona M. Baker Smith (1910 - 1938)*
George Otis Baker (1912 - 1971)*
Norbert J. Baker (1914 - 1987)*
Madeleine H. Baker (1916 - 2001)
Note: Date of burial - May 19, 2001.
Saint Joseph Cemetery
Plot: St. Michael, Lot 816, Space 2.
GPS (lat/lon): 39.8251, -82.99646
Maintained by: Scott Hawley
Originally Created by: OurPast
Record added: Jan 17, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 83614680
Rest in peace, Detective. Thank you for your service and commitment to your community and its citizens. You led the way for many other women. I know you are welcoming the young female officer who was killed in the line of duty a few days ag.|
Added: Oct. 10, 2016
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Added: Sep. 29, 2016
Added: Sep. 18, 2016
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