High heels rattling the hardwood floor like a Tommy gun, a strand of pearls clamped on her neck like a prisoner’s shackles, the matron from Chicago swaggered into the New York police headquarters that day leaving a trail of dumbstruck flatfoots in her wake.
In that high-minded year of 1922, it caused enough of a scandal that a woman dared to enter such a place alone, for everyone knew that the delicately nurtured had no business among this baser sort, the mashers and scam artists, the scalawags and human ghouls. And yet, there she was in her fabulous purple toque and Paris gown, not just standing around the station house looking regal but giving the place the up-and-down of a Scotland Yard inspector who has just spotted the telling clue. Displaying a shapely ankle (according to a scribe who witnessed the scene), the visitor marched into the office of Commissioner Carleton Simon to reveal to what he owed the honor.
“I’ve come to take Stella Myers back to Chicago,” she said.
The commissioner gasped. Stella Myers? The dark-haired desperado known as the cleverest fur and diamond in America? The woman who had given cops the slip three times—once, in Atlanta, by leaping from a three-story window? “She’s desperate!” the commissioner cried.
The matron did not flinch. Instead, she dug into her handbag and fished out a pair of ankle bracelets, a set of handcuffs, and an ugly-looking gun.
“I’ve come prepared,” she said. “These go on [Myers] and we don’t sleep until I’ve locked her up in Chicago.”
To the commissioner and the officers—and to New York, most likely—the scene was as improbable as a police chief in pearls and pumps. Who did this dame think she was? The people of Chicago could have answered: She was the city’s own “feminine Sherlock Holmes,” “the saviour of souls,” “nemesis to many a masher,” “the wonder of the police world,” “terror of the guilty and hope of the friendless.” This was Chicago’s woman of a thousand disguises and a thousand arrests (including at least one lunatic, according to the papers), who could expose phony clairvoyants and fold a man into a jujitsu pretzel; who could pass as a bagwoman one day and seduce an embezzler with a saucy smile the next (“Old dips fall for us,” she was known to say). When she wasn’t dragging a criminal in by the ear like some exasperated aunt, she was sizing up the latest dances, infiltrating the cabarets and shimmy parlors to see whether new steps like the “moonlight slide” and “angle-worm giggle” squared with the moral code of the day. With the blessing of the police chief and other high-ranking officers, she had even produced—and starred in—her own movie, Dregs of the City, in which she saved a country girl from the “bright lights, the flashy dress and the glib tongue” of the city’s underworld.
In short, the straw who had twizzled New York that day had been stirring Chicago for years as one of the boldest, brassiest, sassiest, ballsiest women ever to don the “pie plate,” as the city’s police star was then known.
No one here—particularly of the criminal persuasion—had to ask who the fetching “sleuthess” in the feather-topped toque was. She was none other than Alice B. Clement, detective sergeant first grade of the Chicago Police Department.
Down a hallway at Chicago police headquarters, past rows of silver stars that pay homage to fallen cops, a multipurpose room sits charmless and empty. The carpet is gray. Plain curtains stretch across a bare stage. Almost as an afterthought, a few picture panels decorate the room, mounted perlzaps to spare the place from utter drabness.
Like a burst of light, Alice Clement peers from one such panel. Her gaze suggests the kindly grandmother she was when she was a cop. But a closer look reveals a hint of mischief in the eyes, a Mona Lisa twist to the smile. The photo is extraordinary, however, not for Clement’s expression, or her hat, or even the modern shingle bob haircut that peeks out from underneath. What is intriguing about the picture glearns over her heart—police star 3428—the badge issued to the first female detective in Chicago and perhaps in the United States. Extraordinary, too, is the caption that purports to describe who she was: “Police woman Alice Clements [sic], one of ten women appointed to the Chicago Police Department on Aug. 5, 1913.”
To call Alice Clement “one of” anything is like calling the Unsinkable Molly Brown a survivor of a boating accident. “She may not have been the first policewoman in the country,” says Dennis Bingham, a historian with the Chicago Police—that honor went to Alice Stebbins Wells of Los Angeles. “But she was without a doubt the most prominent. She carried a gun; she had the power of arrest,” and she used it. Not to mention “the furs, the heels, and the jujitsu,” he says. “She was a remarkable woman.”
Whether a little too remarkable is hard to say. The only record of Clement’s exploits comes in the tabloid-style stories that dominated the news coverage of the day. Prose as purple as Clement’s chapeau offers accounts that often seem too good to be true.
Even so, the celebrity they brought her only heightens the great irony of her career: that for all her renown, all her pioneering work, her Hollywoodlike escapades remain virtually unknown to the 3,000-plus policewomen on Chicago’s force today who in some ways owe their jobs to the trail she blazed.
To understand the life and times of Clement, you have to float back to an era when drinking was a crime and Chicago throbbed with speakeasies and brothels, when Al Capone ruled Cicero and the memory of the Great Fire of 1871 still glowed. Chicago, the birthplace of the skyscraper, could not yet lay laim to the forest of buildings that rise today, but with the new Wrigley and Tribune towers clawing upward, and engineering rnarvels like the two-level Wacker Drive boring through the Loop, it was a city ascending.
It was also a city of sin. Confidence men and clairvoyants, gangsters and grifters, hoodlums and harlots thrived in a town where vice teemed like the newly invented automobile.
As in the business world, crime was mostly a male profession, but women held their own. Con artists like Blanche La Badie bilked scads of young women by claiming that her appropriately named “Shafta Pictures corporation” could launch them into show business. Dolly Haggerty, “known to police as the rnost beautiful girl in Chicago crookdom,” according to the papers, supported her drug habit by “converting bogus checks into genuine cash.” through with dope and bad checks and bad cormpany,” she declared after Clement put her in cuffs.) Prostitutes, shoplifters, fortunetellers, and pickpockets plagued the city just like the rats that skittered through the el tunnels. Train stations brimmed with girl runaways freshly arrived from country towns, while cabarets and dance halls—to the outrage of Chicago’s hidebound—pulsed with the latest dances.
The constabulary—all men—scratched their heads when it came to this “new” breed of trouble. They simply were not equipped to deal with the special demands of a sudden influx of women and children. And so, in response to a public outcry led by then mayor Carter Harrison III, flat feet dragging, they turned to women to deal with the phenomenon.
“You have to remember the time we’re talking about,” says Bingham. “Back then, having women do any jobs was sort of frowned upon. But judges and police officials didn’t like the male officers processing female prisoners and kids. Finally they came up with the idea of having policewomen.”
More like social workers than police officers, the members of Chicago’s “fairer-sex detail” of the early 1900s spent their days typing reports and counseling runaways. In 1913, when the ten original policewomen were sworn in, one newspaper of the day led its report with a condescending swipe: “Eight of Chicago’s policewomen started work yesterday, and not one of them made a ‘pinch,’ got into a dispute with anyone, had to tell a crowd, ‘Move on here, now,’ or otherwise engaged in the burden of a policeman’s work. But these are some of the things they did do: They kept still. They listened without talking back.”
Chief McWeeny, known as a crusty, outspoken opponent of the experiment, spelled out how things would—and would not—be for the new $75-a-month hires. “There will by no peek-a-boo waists, sheath or tight skirts or any other frills,” he growled. “They will be assigned to the bathing beaches, parks, and amusement parks and other places where women, girls, and children congregate. Gossip would not be tolerated. The women’s only equipment, to be carried in handbags, was a star, a whistle, and keys to telephone patrol boxes from which they could call the nearest station house in case any “real trouble” arose. (McWeeny later resigned over such progressive changes as the hiring of female police officers, says Bingham.)
The first “test” of their courage came at the LaSalle station when the women assembled for roll call. Apparently a male member of the force tossed a white rat into their midst, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Not a scream was heard, although some lips quivered,” the paper observed. As for questions from the press, the tone was unmistakable. “How would you make a pinch?” one reporter asked. “Use tweezers?”
Into this milieu, like a clap of thunder, boomed Clement—all five feet three inches of her. With flashing dark eyes and a modern bob haircut, she kept a milliner’s wardrobe of fashionable wardrobe of fashionable hats and a closet full of gowns (20 hats and three fur coats, to be exact, as well as numberless serge, satin, and jersey frocks). How she could afford such a vast collection is anyone’s guess. The sensation it caused was not. “Mrs. Clement is a decidedly good-looking brunette, and dresses in snappy style,” gushed one newspaper, “her taste running to beads, handbag watches, laces, and the other frivolous things that appeal to the real feminine.”
Born in Milwaukee to German immigrant parents, she could be traditional—"Dean of Chicago’s Policewomen Divides Her Time Between Catching Thieves and Making Dill Pickles, read the headline of a Chicago Daily Journal profile—but also radical, advocating for women’s voting rights and the repeal of Prohibition. She took pride in her femininity but slept with a gun under her pillow and could flip a brute on his back if the situation arose.
A keen example of her independence came with the collapse of her first marriage. In an age when the word “divorce” was barely spoken, and virtually never initiated by women, Clement sued her husband, Leonard H. Clement, in 1914 for “desertion and intemperance.” Four years later, the divorce granted, she married Albert L. Faubel, the head barber of the Hub, a chain of tonsorial parlors. The ceremony, naturally, was performed by a female pastor.
Just what stoked such liberated attitudes—and Clements drive to become a cop in the first place—remains a mystery. Her family included no other members of law enforcement, and Clement’s survivors cannot recall any stories of special courage early in her life. “It was always explained to me that our family was just a little—I don’t want to say ‘crazy,’ but a little strange in a way,” says Clement’s great-grandson, Steven D. Lind.
Whatever drove her, in 1913, the 35-year-old Clement took her oath as a detective. A police archive photo from the early 1920s shows just how unusual the appointment was. Of the 90-some investigators, only one was a woman. Alice.
Whether confronting mashers or murderers, she fit right in. “Hot Tamale” Anna found out the hard way. It was a steamy summer evening in August 1916 when the food diva’s temper prompted a near riot of “fistic hostilities.” The Tamale, according to the papers, did not like the people who worked for her to sell sandwiches when she was trying to push the dish from which she took her nickname. “I hired those men to sell tamales,” she would later tell a reporter. “An’ what did they do? They sold sandwiches to anybody that wanted ’em. Can I do business like that? I cannot. So I sailed into ’em.”
By the time detective Alice arrived on the scene, “revolver flashing in her gesticulating right [hand],” the battle was in full progress, “with and epithets flying like shrapnel and shrilling in 42-centimeter tune,” as one paper put it. The melée continued until Clement, with what would become her trademark growl, spun the brawlers around. “Back!” she shouted. “Line up! Right against that wall!”
“So persuasive was the gleam of her aye and the gleam of her ‘six’ shooter,” a paper reported, “that all the belligerent powers desisted at once from all unfriendly acts and obeyed orders.” Clement rounded up the lot of them—four total—and marched them into a paddy wagon. “It was just one more feather in the Parisian toque of policewoman Alice,” file story proclaimed the next day.
Actually, it was just the beginning, for during the next decade, Clement would reign as queen of the dramatic arrest and the darling of the reporters hunting boffo tales of vice and violence. “Slap, Slap, Slap by Officer 3428,” sang the Chicago Tribune headline over the case of the overworked horse. “Shed a tear, if you rnust for the fagged out horse inhumanely treated,” the September 1916 story began, “but revert, now and then, to the sternness and efficiency of the officer [Alice Clement]. Thus fortified, begin.”
Clement, it seems, had been alerted by a friend one day that a man was beating a horse at Maplewood and Lawrence. “I’m a police officer,” she declared on arriving, confronting a burly teamster. “Quit beating that horse.”
“I don’t believe it,” the man snorted. “And if you come near here I’ll beat the stuffin’ outta you.” Ever unflappable, Clement reached into her bag and the man suddenly faced a revolver “big as a bootleg,” according to the Tribune. Clement then “cracked him a half dozen swift slaps in the face and ordered him in to the waiting automobile.”
“Gee,” he groaned to a reporter later, ‘that dame packs an awful kick in her left”
One of the mashers of the day, Joseph Withers, learned that she also packed a grudge against flirts. Withers operated an “acting school” out of his office at 180 West Washington Street, where he promised young girls he could get them into pictures. First he told them they needed to be “fortified” with an official $2.25 makeup box, which consisted of “a small chip of grease paint, a bit of lip rouge, an eye pencil, and a tablespoon face powder,” the sum of which could be bought for a quarter. Once equipped, they followed him into another room, where he instructed them in the art of making a “knee skirt”—this intricate achievement consisting in elevating the garment to the point mentioned,” the Tribune reported.
As for calculating the girls’ proportions, “his methods with that tape measure were impertinent to say the least,” Clement would later say. Posing as a film actress wannabe, she had found out first-hand on a visit to his office.’
“Ah, the perfect vamp,” he told Clement, his eyes lighting up as she entered.
She “affected to be pleased,” but “she did not readily acquiesce in the proposal anent the ‘knee skirt,’” reported the Tribune. “I let him talk to me long enough to get evidence on him,” Clement said, “and then I called the wagon.”
Such arrests became commonplace, though in all fairness to the would-be Lotharios, observed a newspaper of the time, “it is easy to see why men who are so inclined would attempt to make a ‘mash’ on Mrs. Clement. Comely, darkhaired and clear-eyed, she coolly lets them go through all the disgusting litany of the ‘masher’ before she turns back the lapel of her coat, shuts her lips firmly, and remarks: ‘They want you down at headquarters.’”
By the late teens and early twenties, Clement enjoyed a popularity that rivaled a stage star’s and stretched far beyond the city’s borders. In New York, she wowed police and press alike after announcing her intention to transport the dangerous Stella Myers back to Chicago on her own. Dazzled by her purple turban, black cape, suede pumps, large pearl earrings, bracelets, and rings, the Evening Telegram remarked that “then we knew why Alice Clement has the reputation of being the cleverest woman detective and policewoman in this broad
and long country.”
At home, she burnished her legend with a high-profile crusade to shut down the fortuneteller trade. Dipping into her closet, she went undercover yet again, this time taking on the vast underground of fakirs, seers, and clairvoyants. “Hats are the most important,” she told a reporter, divulging one of her undercover secrets, “large and small, light and dark and of vivid hue, floppy brimmed and tailored, there is nothing that alters a woman’s apearance more than a change in headgear. Never wearing the same outfit twice, she watched charlatans gaze into crystal balls some 500 times.
Her arrests, as usual, found their way into the papers. One story reported that the inheritance of a Chicago widow was disappearing at the rate of thousands of dollars a day. Clement discovered that the source of the drain was a clairvoyant named Mona Allen. Arriving at the fortuneteller’s door, Clement crept in, only to be greeted with a shock. “A pistol was stuck against my chest,” she said. Holding her own gun in one hand, she judo chopped the seer’s pistol-packing fist with the other. “Then I rushed to the back door and unlocked it. There I had a trusty sergeant waiting for me. We made the arrest.”
In an interview with the Chicago Daily faumal, Clement later chuckled at the “mystical powers” possessed by those she arrested. “I had my fortune told 500 times by palm or cards or handkerchief [and] not one of them ever told me who I was,” she said. “Sometimes they would tell me what they would do to Alice Clement if she ever came in and then I would have to laugh.”
One case solved by Clement, the murder of a Chicago girl, rivaled the tales of the new sensation of the mystery novel, a woman named Agatha Christie. Titled “The Dulcimer” by the newspaper in which it appeared, the story involved the slaying of “Little Miss Perry,” a destitute young woman who lived in a “rickety building on lower Clark street.” Stricken with typhoid, the girl appeared to have died by chance—a conclusion reached by Clement’s male investigative partner and accepted by the city’s other detectives. Clement, however, suspected foul play and began to look more deeply into the sad story. Her hunch paid off. The young girl had indeed been intentionally poisoned, infected by typhoid germs placed on the strings of a dulcimer she had bought from a pawnshop on Wabash Avenue.
As it turned out, Miss Perry’s long-lost aunt, Mrs. Brent, had discovered that the girl had inherited a valuable piece of property. Ingratiating herself on visits, the aunt began looking for ways to kill the girl and seize the property. Through a series of brilliant deductions, Clement revealed that the aunt had poisoned the dulcirner. Knowing the girl would occasionally lick her fingers between plucking the strings, the woman correctly reasoned that she would become ill.
When Brent was confronted, her face “grew ghastly,” according to the article. “She seemed to seek for some means of escape,” Clement told the interviewer.
“You have confessed by your actions that you are guilty,” Clement said she told the woman. “Now, before we take you to police headquarters, tell us why you committed this murder.”
The woman confessed that she had killed the girl in hopes of recovering a lost family fortune. Before Clement could take the woman to the station, however, “a wild scream interrupted,” Clement said. “We whirled toward the bed, just in time to see the woman who had murdered her niece plunge forward, blood streaming from her throat, where she had pierced it with a penknife.
“No further explanation ever came from her, for ten minutes later a physician looked upward with a queer little expression and uttered the one little word which has caused so many sorrows in this world and ended so much suffering— ‘Dead.”’
Such stories made Clement more famous, but not all of her cases were exercises in self-promotion. Onjuly 24, 1915, the cruise ship Eastland rolled over into the Chicago River with 2,500 men, women, and children on board. Clement, dressed in a white frock and pearls, splashed into the muddy waters to help in the rescue. Eight hundred forty-four people died that day, a figure that might have been worse had it not been for people like Clement. When she returned home, she said little to her family about what had happened. Later, in a quiet ceremony, she was honored with a gold “coroner’s star,” for “valued services rendered to the coroner in the Eastland disaster.
Somewhere amid all of this, Clement found time to test the dances of the day, spy on cabarets, and track down runaway girls. And then she used the experiences to launch the crown jewel of her career: her own movie.
In Dregs of the City, Clement portrayed herself as the master detective charged with finding a young country girl lost in “one of the more unhallowed of the south side cabarets.” A threesome also featuring Chicago police chiefs James L. Mooney and John J. Garrity “fearlessly invade a number of prominent resorts in the vicinity of Twenty-second Street,” according to the advertisements, “battering down doors with axes and interrupting the cogitations of countless devotees of hashish, bhang and opium.”
In the movie, Clement wielded her trusty revolver to bust up a poker game and retrieve the young Mary Pickford look-alike from the rogue’s lair. Thus was victory declared over “the Beelzebubs, Jezebels and other skeezix of iniquity.”
Booked into places like the Majestic and Marquette theatres alongside movies starring celebrities of the day—Ethel Barrymore and Al Jolson—the film created a sensation. (Though promotional photographs exist, Chicago has been unable to locate a copy of Dregs of the City.)
If wayward crooks somehow failed to recognize the celebrity sleuth in their midst, a movie poster of the film provided a reminder in bold type:
FROM POLICE HEADQUARTERS
CRIMINALS LEAVE THE CITY
Dregs of the City
With her praises being sung in quarters far and near, there seemed to be little that could slow Clement’s rise. Not everyone, however, joined the chorus. It was one thing for a woman to get a little attention. But it was another for her to steal the thunder of the entire, almost exclusively male, police force. Little by little, dissent began to roil beneath the glittering surface.
The first suggestion of trouble came with the appointment of a new general superintendent of police—a man by the name of Charles Fitzmorris—who, unlike Chiefs Mooney and Garrity, was not amused by “detective Alice’s” exploits.
His disapproval became apparent when the movie censor board, overseen by the police department, condemned Dregs of the City. “The picture shall never be shown in Chicago,” the board claimed. “It’s not even interesting. Many of the actors are hams and it doesn’t get anywhere.”
When later asked to explain that curious rationale, Fitzmorris amended the statements to say that the movie exaggerated life in the vice dens of Chicago and “thereby tended to give strangers false impressions of the city’s dregs.”
The movie languished in court as Clement sought the right to show it, Eventually, after several appeals, the ban—and Fitzmorris—won. Dregs of the City could not be shown within the limits of Chicago. Clement seethed. “I was going to deliver a moral message to the world with that film,” she said. “And I still intend to. I think some of the women on the board are catty. They think they’ve given me a black eye, but they haven’t. I’ll show it anyway. Maybe they’re jealous of Chicago’s virtue.”
Clement took the show on the road, touring the country—even finagling a 90-day furlough from her superiors to do so. Still, for all the bravado, a fissure seems to have spread through the foundation of the career that previously had been a bedrock of unmitigated triumphs. There had always been enemies, real and perceived, who did not care for what she was doing and, increasingly, were not afraid to let her know it.
Judge William N. Gemmill of the municipal courts was one. He tried two of Clement’s “masher” cases, and he made it clear that he did not enjoy her tactics. In one trial, the judge applauded a jury verdict exonerating R.P. Manard, charged by Clement with flirting in a movie theatre. During the trial, Manard claimed that it was Clement, not he, who had been the annoyer. Gemmill himself cleared a second alleged masher, a man named Charles Moy, citing the earlier acquittal. In his ruling, the judge acknowledged that he had “made up [his] mind” about Clement’s “tactics” in that trial, and thus believed the accused over the detective. In fact, he went so far as to say that he believed Clement went into theatres “for the sole purpose of finding a man who will rub knees with her.”
Clement was “as indignant as a ruffled policewoman who has been called a ‘knee rubber’ knows how to be,” a June 1917 newspaper reported. So displeased was ihe that she slapped the judge with a $50,000 lawsuit for defamation of character, declaring that her reputation as both an officer and a mother of three young girls was at stake. “I will not rest until I have received a public apology from Judge Gemmill,” she said. “The politicians are protecting the mashers. They are trying to get my job. But they’re not done with me. I was put here to guard the girls of Chicago and I intend to do my part.” (The outcome of the suit could not be determined.)
Unbowed, Clement launched her highest-profile endeavor with a 1923 series of front page articles on runaway girls. Written in the first person for the Chicago American and illustrated with an imposing half-page photo of Clement, the series screamed banner headlines such as “Woman Sleuth Bares Lives of Girls” and “Men Not the More Wicked Sex.”
Cora, for instance, was “so calloused at 17 she called good girls little simps,” shuddered the headline of one story. Three times Clement had tried to save the girl, who was cursed with “the fatal gift of beauty,” as the detective put it. Twice Clement returned her to her home. The third time the girl disappeared, she vanished for good.
“I wish you could find my little girl,” the mother wept. “But I know we will never find Cora,” Clement wrote. “She’s a thousand years older than her mother. Indeed, she is years and years older than I. Cora will never come back. She is just one of those girls who disappear into the whirlpool and [are] never heard of afterward.”
By 1925, however, it seemed that Clement was the one being sucked into a downward spiral. After more than a dozen years of following this top-rated detective and genuine city character, the papers seemed to lose interest in the “wonder of the police world.” Headlines once so frequent dwindled to a precious view. Exactly what accounted for the decline is unclear. The stories leading up to that period hint at a growing discomfort with her fame. Perhaps her superiors, of jealousy, decided to take her down a peg. Whatever the reason, the city’s first queen of the front page had all but lost her throne.
In 1926, as if to confirm the fall, she found herself cast out of the detective bureau and into the West Chicago Avenue police station. Whether it was an official demotion or not, the move was a slap. Clement had spent virtually her entire career with the city’s most elite unit and had been respected as one of the department’s highest-profile investigators. To be remanded to an outpost seemed an insult at best. In years past, such a slight might have provoked Clement to battle. But in the fast-gathering twilight of her career, she did not fight, although not for lack of spiritual vim. Her flesh had betrayed her.
Unbeknownst to all but her closest family members, Clement was suffering from diabetes. Able to hide the illness throughout her career, she finally succumbed. Two months after her transfer, she was forced to take a leave.
She deteriorated quickly and quietly. Within months, the disease turned her from the vital, fetching detective splashed across the front pages to a sickly matron confined to a wheelchair. Gone were the gay furs and frilly dresses, the pearls and the feathered toques, the smiling eyes and the coy smile. As a patient at Cook County Hospital, she wore round, dark-rimmed granny glasses and a shapeless hospital smock. In one photo she sat looking down, hands folded across her lap in a wheelchair. Just 48, she looked 80.
By December 1926, she had worsened so much that she asked to be taken home. There, at 6222 Newark Avenue, she spent her dwindling days with her family. Still remembered fondly by some of her colleagues, she welcomed a visit from the chief of detectives, William H. Schoemaker, on Christmas Day, according to one newspaper. “Pray for me, Bill,” she told him. “I won’t be here long, and cannot go to church to pray on Christmas.” Sadly, her powers of deduction were as keen as ever. The next day, December 26, 1926, detective sergeant first grade Alice Clement died at home.
An honor guard of police and city officials bore the detective’s coffin to its gravesite at Bronswood Cemetery in Hinsdale. Six female officers were to serve as pallbearers, according to the
Chicago American, but a photograph shows an all-male contingent of police and city officials carrying the casket. Obituaries ranged from a few paragraphs on the front page to a picture with a caption. Given all she had accomplished her life, the lack of tribute was striking.
In the years that followed, the woman experiment continued. But in Chicago at least, it was missing the spark of Clement’s fiery tenure. In fact, it was not until 1956 that women were allowed to wear uniforms, and then they were stricted to skirts and leather pumps. Policewomen did not walk beats until the early 1970s, says Bingham, the police historian, and no woman, it seems, achieved the fame once enjoyed by Clement.
But to say she left no legacy ignores living proof to the contrary. As of last year, the Chicago Police Department lied more than 3,000 female officers, including scores of lieutenants, sergeants, detectives, and youth investigators. In 1998, the force narned its first female deputy superintendent, Jeanne Clark, and in 2000, it made Barbara McDonald the department’s highest-ranking woman, tapping her to head the bureau of administrative services.
Clement’s own family was inspired by her legacy. Her grandson Douglas Lind, who was a member of the Burlington, Wisconsin, police force for 15 years, credits Clement, at least in part, with his choice of career. And another grandson, the late Bruce Clement Lind, headed the the police and fire commission as a village trustee for Hoffman Estates. The town’s police building now bears his name. Meanwhile, in Streamwood, Clement’s great-grandson, Steven D. Lind, currently patrols the streets as an officer. A couple of years ago, he and his uncle, Doug, uncovered the trove of artifacts from Clement’s career while clearing out the attic of one of Clement’s daughters. “We were blown away,” Steven Lind says. “We knew she was one of the first female officers, but we had no idea.”
When they contacted then superintendent Terry Hillard to pass along the mementos to the Chicago police they shocked to find that the department did not have a single identified picture of Clement, much less records of her rich and colorful career.
“It’s really sad when you think about it,” Doug Lind says. “She really had a time when she was in her heyday. She was front page news. She deserved more.” Even her grave, unmarked in a Hinsdale cemetery, cheats her of a proper memorial. “She didn’t have a police star as a memorial or anything to note all she did,” Lind says.
Today, Clement’s family clings to the only thing it has left: a crumbling album of newspaper clippings and old photos. Her badge is gone. So is her gun, the weapon having been returned to the police departafter the detective’s death in 1926. “It was a .32-caliber hinge-break revolver,” Doug Lind says. “It was small so you could fit it into a purse. My mother look it to the station wrapped in a towel.”
Meanwhile, in the department where Clement served, the single panel photo—half hidden down a hallway—remains one the last traces of a career that would give a Hollywood screenwriter envy.
There are also the ghosts—of girls lost and found, of crooks captured and marched off to justice, and of a detective whose gaze still watches over the city, even if nobody knows.
Photographs: Courtesy of the Lind Family
2 years ago