In 1913 Oakland citizens began pressuring the Oakland Police Department to hire women. The issue made the news in June, 1913 when women's groups asked Chief Walter J. Petersen to hire three female policemen and a female assistant to the Chief. Commissioner of Health and Safety Fred Turner used the excuses of language and budget to prevaricate: what would the position be called- "policewoman" or "patrolwoman"? He also said the new positions would cost Oakland $500/month that he didn't have. Chief Petersen said he was worried about what these ladies would wear and whether having them in the office would cause trouble.1

By July of 1913, the women had gotten their way. The "Protective Department of Women and Children" which reported to Commissioner Turner instead of Chief Petersen and would have its chief. The new bureau was not an altogether progressive measure: the women were to serve "as censors of the city's morals and matters pertaining to morality in connection with the local stage."2 (Ordinance No. 576 N.S. December 8, 1913 officially established the department.)

Beatrice McCall

At the time of the formation of this Department, Beatrice McCall was an assistant probation officer for Alameda County. She resigned from this position to take a position in Oakland in January, 1914. Because she lived in Berkeley, some people were not pleased, saying the appointment was in violation of civil service rules.3 She took the position of the Secretary in this new department which she held till its closing in 1917, becoming one of the first female employees of the Oakland Police Department.6

Another, not so positive article told of her first experience in her new role. In January, 1914 tells of the near-escape of her first arrestee who made it into the hospital without being searched and then nearly sawed her way out of custody.8


McCall was an advocate for improved prison conditions. In 1910 she argued for creating jobs for female prisoners and anticipated opposition from unions.4 She was an advocate for better programming in schools to help keep kids out of trouble (read: saloons) downtown. This in turn would keep them out of Juvenile Court. She argued for a "training home for girls" and a home for alcoholics.She exhorted men to do their part in keeping men out of trouble- women were already doing their share!7

McCall also argued in favor of prohibition in front of City Council on numerous occasions.

In 1917, Mayor John L. Davie proposed an ordinance to get rid of the Women's Protective Bureau and McCall (now Mrs. Joseph Whitnah) saying that the city couldn't afford $5000/year.  He had previously sought McCall's resignation.9 It came up again and this time Davie said that the Bureau should be combined with the "Associated Charities."10 McCall and her friends launched a petition to preserve her job and the Bureau. On July 17, the Council abolished the Bureau by a vote of three to two. In Davie's formal statement about the shuttering of the Department, he cited many other cities' decisions, including Los Angeles' who confined this type of work to charity.11 This whole to-do was called a "near-riot" and over 1000 people were estimated to have come to City Hall to participate.12

Photo, photo



  1. "ASKS APPOINTMENT OF POLICE WOMEN." San Francisco Chronicle: Jun 27, 1913.
  2. "Oakland to Establish New Department to Be Run by Policewomen: Bureau for the Protection of Women and Children Is Decided Upon." San Francisco Chronicle: July 12, 1913.

  3. "APPOINTMENT MAY START NEW FUSS: Miss McCarthy of San Francisco Named to Succeed Beatrice McCall." San Francisco Chronicle: Jan 1, 1914.

  4. "MEET TO DISCUSS PRISON INDUSTRIES: Committee to Be Formed by a Woman Officer Will Help Unfortunate Sisters." San Francisco Chronicle: Aug 18, 1910.

  5. "MANY SPEAK ON WELFARE OF CHILD: Legislative Measures Talked Of at Notable Gathering in Hotel Oakland." San Francisco Chronicle: Feb 16, 1913.

  6. "Mrs. Weber and Baby Released From Jail." San Francisco Chronicle: Oct 24, 1914.

  7. "PROBATION OFFICERS EXPLOIT THEIR WORK: Business Men Are Told of the Success of Project From Many Viewpoints." San Francisco Chronicle: Oct 14, 1910.

  8. "ATTEMPTS TO SAW WAY TO LIBERTY: First Prisoner of an Oakland Police Woman Is Not Searched." San Francisco Chronicle: Jan 3, 1914.

  9. "Woodyard Closed for Summer." Oakland Tribune: July 6, 1917.

  10. "City Council Stages Row; New Line-up." Oakland Tribune: July 9, 1917.

  11. "Protective Bureau is Abolished by Council." Oakland Tribune: July 17, 1917. 

  12. "OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL SCENE OF NEAR RIOT: Mayor Wins First Inning in Fight to Abolish Woman's Protective Bureau MRS. WHITNAH ASSAILED Ordinance Is Passed to Print After Series of Oratorical Clashes." San Francisco Chronicle: July 10, 1917.