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January 9, 1918: Duluth’s first female police officer trained to fire gun

On this day in Duluth in 1918, Duluth’s first female police officer, Miss Roy McGregor, had her initial training in the use of firearms. Jailer Al Root, considered a “good shot,” provided the lesson at the police target range “on the waterfront.” The story concluded that while “results of the practice were not made public,” Root said that “he was going to brush up a bit”—implying Miss McGregor wasn’t a bad shot at all. She had been hired the previous July, just three days after the Duluth News Tribune wrote a story calling for the Duluth Police Department to hire a woman. “[Women] should be an integral part of the force,” the newspaper argued. “They should not be stuck on as an ornament.” Despite that statement, when the paper reported McGregor’s hiring, it did so in a mocking manner: “‘Miss Policeman—’ This is to be the form of address in Duluth Soon. Duluth is to have a woman police-‘man’”—yet the paper chose not to make light of McGregor’s masculine first name. McGregor, a former nurse at the Duluth Children’s Home, received $90 a month—the same as any other patrolman pay (and only about $19,000 a year in today’s dollars). Duluth already had a female “matron,” Mary Connelly, who watched over female prisoners. When McGregor went to work for the DPD in September, 1917, Chief McKercher outlined her duties: “She shall visit the dance halls and see that there is no improper dancing. She will also make the rounds of the chop suey houses and look into the booths to see that the sponing [sic; spooning?] is not too intensive and shall walk the streets to see that there is no improper conduct going on or improper language being used. She shall, in short, be a custodian of the women of Duluth.” McGregor resigned after ten months to go to London and assist police women there and keep American troops away from “undesirable” girls. When she left the DPD, Chief McKercher said “During the comparatively short time she has been associated with the department she has accomplished wonders.

Roy McGregor, Duluth's first female police officer. (Image: Zenith City Press)