Mary Ena <I>Roberts</I> Mays

Mary Ena Roberts Mays

Salem, Washington County, Indiana, USA
Death 1 Jun 1928 (aged 72)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Cremated, Other
Memorial ID 164979621 · View Source
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On June 15, 1918, the Indianapolis Police Department appointed its first 13 female police officers. Two of these women were African-Americans. One of them is justifiably well known, Emma (Christy) Baker, partly because she spent 21
years with IPD. The other woman, Mary E. Mays has faded into obscurity. Recent research has uncovered the details of a life dedicated to public service, someone who was widely known and respected in Indianapolis for many years, before she became a policewoman.

Mary Ena Roberts was born in Salem, Washington County, IN on Jan. 3, 1856 to John Roberts and Mariah (Roberts) Roberts, “free persons of color.” (Emma Baker also was born here). Her paternal grandmother was a Cherokee Indian. The family moved to the Bedford, IN area in the 1860’s, likely due to the rising race prejudice in Salem during the Civil War.

Roberts came to Indianapolis with her mother and stepfather Thomas Crosson. On Sept. 13, 1877, Mary wed Philip Mays. They had two children, Lucille (1878-1913) and Garrold E. Mays (1885-1960). The couple divorced in 1892.

Mary E. Mays worked for a number of years for the Flower Mission of Indianapolis, an organization that existed to bring flowers to hospital patients but also to help the poor and unfortunate. As a mulatto woman, she was not allowed to be a member of the organization, just an employee. Mary was a district nurse for the organization and, in 1885, the mission wanted to start a visiting nurse program and asked Mary to do the preliminary research for it.

For the next 20 years Mays served as a visiting nurse with the Flower Mission and became very familiar to the citizens of Indianapolis. It was estimated she visited 33,000 sick people in one year. She was the only African-American employee of the Flower Mission in 1902.

In September of 1903, she and a physician responded to a settlement named Norwood, one mile southeast of the boundary of Indianapolis, where 17 persons were afflicted with typhoid fever.
On March 26, 1904, Indianapolis suffered its worst flood in its history to date. That afternoon, Mays, her niece, Claude Walker, and May's daughter, Lucile, went into the flood zone and rescued the seven members of the William Lodback family from 1500 Hiawatha St. With the assistance of a man, these women rescued 60 persons.

In 1916, the citizens of Indianapolis collected money to purchase a car for Mays so that she would no longer have to walk to visit the thousands of poor and sick people on her rounds. The Indianapolis News stated: “What Mrs. Mays deserves is a car of gold."

Mays managed to put her daughter Lucile into Howard University. She became a nurse.

After her appointment to the Indianapolis Police Department (at age 62), she was partnered with Baker. They concentrated their duties on arresting shoplifters downtown, working as dance matrons, working with juveniles and protecting young women from predatory males.

One of the cases she worked on was on Oct. 17, 1918. A two-story home at 567 W. Merrill St. was full of 14 people, all seriously ill with pneumonia and influenza. This was during the great flu epidemic which killed millions. IPD dispatched two bicyclemen and Mays to deal with this situation. Two babies had already died. The residents had not had any medical attention in two days and had no money. Mays and the male officers stayed at the home all night and cared for the needs of the family. Mays was relieved the next day by Policewoman Sadie Osborne.

Baker and Mays made a good record through 1921. On Jan. 3, 1922, a new administration took over the City of Indianapolis and many officers were asked to resign due to their political persuasion, which was the practice in those days. One of these was Mays. She left Indianapolis to live with her son Garrold, in Los Angeles. She died there on June 1, 1928. Her burial place is unknown.

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  • Created by: P R P
  • Added: 14 Jun 2016
  • Find a Grave Memorial 164979621
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mary Ena Roberts Mays (3 Jan 1856–1 Jun 1928), Find a Grave Memorial no. 164979621, ; Maintained by P R P (contributor 47151758) Cremated, Other.