WOMAN COPS? - OH, MY!
Updated: Feb 19
Violet Hill Whyte:
National WCTU Special Representative and a Police Officer
She spoke representing the National WCTU in every state in the Country.
The Baltimore Sun 1909 printed an article titled, "WOMAN COPS? OH, MY!"... "Best Beat For a Woman, Takes Her All Over Her House."
A headline in the newspaper dated July 3, 1920, reads "No Negro Policemen." Police Commissioner Charles D. Gaither said that he has decided that Negroes although they take the examination, will not be appointed to the police force in Baltimore. So, it came as a surprise when the first Black officer hired was a woman.
On December 4, 1937, after Gaither left the police department., Mrs. Violet Whyte became Baltimore Police Department's first Black officer. She eventually became assigned to the Northwest District where she worked for 30 years, sometimes working 16 - 20 hours a day, never missing a day of work.
In 1965, she was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and in 1967 she was promoted to Lieutenant. Although she retired on December 7, 1967, she continued to arrive at her office at 6:00am as she was determined to finish projects she had started. Judge Charles E. Moylan Sr, of the supreme bench of Baltimore described her a "one-woman-police-force and a one-woman-social-worker combined."
Violet Hill Whyte was soft-spoken and by some accounts, she never carried a gun although she worked dangerous cases including homicides and child abuse. She counseled as many as 125 persons a month in addition to working her 8 hour day as a member of the Western District force. She collected Christmas toys in laundry baskets at the police station, gathered clothes for prisoners and their families.
Violet Whyte was married and the mother of four children, two were adopted. She taught in grammar school for six years but after she got married and had children. She stopped teaching to raise her children.
Mrs. Whyte served in several capacities within the WCTU on a national level from 1931-1976. Her positions included Director of Work Among Negroes, Special Representative of Sojourner Truth WCTU, National Organizer for Work Among Colored People, and Field Service. The purpose of her work was to encourage and teach the truth about beverage alcohol, especially in schools, centers, churches, and any meeting in need of instruction. She stressed sobriety, good citizenship, peace as well as inter-faith and inter-racial study in order to advance the coming of Christ's Kingdom.
Knowing that a Christian can neither use nor condone the traffic in alcohol or other narcotics she made every effort to disseminate the truth about what alcohol is and what it does. In an effort to lower the rates of delinquency and crime, she urged WCTU women everywhere to study local laws and to be come familiar with the interpretation of the laws through court attendance.
She worked to gain pledged members who would carry on the work of the WCTU and encouraged the forming of youth groups in order to program wholesome recreation and teach the highest standards of Christian ideals.
Violet Hill Whyte made such a difference in this world, that a street was named after her in her hometown of Baltimore, MD.
Information for this article came from the Handbook of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union 1957 and newspaper articles.