This memoir chronicles a policewoman’s historic legal battle with the Los Angeles Police Department, challenging institutionalized sexual discrimination.
In 1947, after serving in the Army for five years—and attaining the rank of captain—Blake began the application process to join the LAPD. She received her acceptance to the Police Academy in May 1948 at the age of 27 and walked an LA beat for three years. In addition to the hardship of having to patrol wearing a skirt and heels, women were ordered to carry their guns in their black police purses along with handcuffs. Still, the author liked being on the street. In the ’50s, she was temporarily transferred “to work Lincoln Heights Jail.” This was evidently retaliation for her refusing to resign from the Army Reserves. According to Blake, the LAPD assumed any woman in the military was a lesbian. This was considered even worse than being a woman on the police force. But not long after, all female officers were taken off the street. The book describes the career consequences of this decision: “Preventing women from walking a beat or going out on patrol not only deprived women of that kind of active duty, it deprived them of many job opportunities that required precisely that kind of experience.” After 25 years of trying to effect change from within, the author filed a landmark Title VII lawsuit against the department. Blake’s memoir, heavily edited and reorganized by co-author Gross, focuses primarily on the professional side of the policewoman’s life as well as on her extraordinary seven-year legal fight. That court battle led to a change in police hiring and the promotion of women and minorities throughout the country. But readers are given only a peek into Blake’s tumultuous private life, which included three marriages, alcoholism, and serious health issues resulting from the stress of constant on-the-job harassment. As such, the final product is less a memoir than a valuable—and at times, frightening—documentation of the accepted code of misbehavior safely ensconced behind the “blue wall of silence.” Page after page, readers see Blake enduring in-your-face hostility and quiet snickering with resolve and courage. It makes her ultimate victory that much sweeter.
An inspirational, detailed, and informative police account with current relevance. (foreword, afterword, appendix)