A page from the Los Angeles Herald newspaper announcing Capt. Nellie Truelove’s commission as a member of the LAPD

On March 4, 1903, the Los Angeles Herald newspaper reported that Salvation Army Captain Nellie Truelove would be the first woman “to be given a right to wear the nickel star and swing the black club of police authority.”

Captain Nellie Truelove

Born in London in 1863, the aptly-named Capt. Truelove ran a home for “fallen” women at the turn of the 20th century in the Lincoln Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.

The word “fallen” in those days referred to women who worked as prostitutes or were pregnant and unmarried.

Capt. Truelove’s rescue work involved spending days and nights in bars and brothels trying to ease the burden of women in trouble. She believed that no matter how dire the circumstance, there was hope for every woman she met.

Courtesy of California Digital Newspaper Collection

Often, she would be called on to referee disputes between the ladies in her care — or their clients — so the Los Angeles Police Department trusted her with the authority to keep the peace as an official member of the force.

Just one year after she received her star and billy club she died. Reportedly, among her last words were, “take care of my girls” and “it was worth it all.”

On the day of her funeral, the streets were lined with thousands of people as eight policemen led a white hearse drawn by four white horses. As her cortege passed the red light district, the bar owners and bartenders who knew her well stood outside with doors closed and hats off, out of respect.

The full article reads: 

She Wears A Star | Nellie Truelove Joins the Police Force

Salvation Lass Appointed by the Commission | May Exercise Authority at Rescue Home in East Los Angeles – Fryburg & Berkowitz Saloon License Case Ended – Police Duty at Schools

Demure little Nellie Truelove is a member of the Los Angeles police force, distinguished in that she is the first woman to be given a right to wear the nickel star and swing the black club of police authority. Nellie Truelove is used to the blue uniform and not unaccustomed to the exercise of authority, for, in addition to being a”policeman,” she is Staff Captain Nellie of The Salvation Army, in charge of the Salvation Army Rescue home on Griffith street in East Los Angeles. J. S. Slauson introduced The Salvation Army lass to Mayor Snyder; she was recommended, the mayor said, “by the best people of the city.”

When the police commission had waded through a part of the accumulation of business before it, the mayor called attention to the presence of “Staff Captain Nellie Truelove,” who asked to be clothed with police power. Commissioner Keeney wore his most cherubic smile when the blue-gowned young woman was presented. Commissioner Maglnnis, “the man from Mexico,” whose first appearance it was at a board meeting, looked as though he was glad that the mayor had given him the job.

Commissioner Lang wheeled about, so that he might be in range of the smiling but embarrassed face of the applicant for a place on the police force. The mayor, of course, was radiant. He is at his best when women are present. For instance, the other day he deliberately violated a city ordinance that he might do a woman a good turn. She called late in the afternoon to inform the mayor that a policeman had threatened her with arrest if she persisted in tooting her fish horn—the woman was a fish peddler. She said that she could not sell the fish If she might not toot the horn, and a stock on hands would be spoiled. The mayor told her to go on and blow the fish horn until her stock was sold, and if any policeman interfered, to refer him to the mayor.

Advice to Women

If you want anything from the mayor, just be a woman; he will find a way to gratify the want. When Nellie Truelove came with her unusual request, the mayor for a time was lost in doubt, but Herbert J. Goudge, the assistant city attorney, was called for counsel, and gave it as his opinion that there was nothing in the law governing the police department that forbade appointment of a woman.

Of course, she will be but a special “policeman,” her authority being confined to the rescue home, where often there are admitted women whose only fear is of a police officer. It is Impracticable to call upon the regular police every time there is a disturbance at the home, and It is not the wish of the home management to have every rebellious inmate arrested and taken to the police station.

The Fryburg & Berkowitz saloon license at 245 East First street, which has been in controversy for several weeks, was disposed of, by allowing the application for a transfer to Charles Toegel. Frank Reese asked for a continuance of one week to give Fryburg a chance to be heard. Toefcel wanted the matter settled and out of the way. His story of entering into partnership with Fryburg, as Toegel told it, was that of the innocent victim of an unscrupulous and designing lawbreaker. “After I learned that Fryburg was not what you might say an up and down honest man.” continued the speaker, he was anxious to get out of the partnership, and sold his interest in the business to the Los Angeles Brewing company.

Mayor Snyder will give paternal advice to the board of education, whose members authorized the board secretary to make a request for a. policeman who would be at all times ready to answer a call from superintendents of schools, when boys or girls became obstreperous and lost awe of the birch. The school board secretury made this pointed demand:

A Pointed Demand

“At a meeting of the board of education, held February 24, I was Instructed to communicate to you the request of the board that you detail a police officer who may be called upon at any time by the superintendents of schools, as cases very often occur where immediate action is necessary, and delays have many times occurred and the object been defeated because of there being no officer available when wanted.”

Chief of Police Elton assured the police board members that the house duty men at the police station are always available to be called to reinforce the school superintendents.

Pressman & Henry were granted a liquor license at 344 South Spring street, the license that was lost by Paul Kerkow for violation of the Sunday closing law.

J. K. Miller was allowed a transfer of his license from the Arcade station to the corner of Central and Ceres avenues. Edward Bode was made a special policeman, to act as a watchman for John Singleton. The application of A. C. V. Tipton for a special’s star was denied, because he was but 19 years old, the chief explained.

Policeman T. F. Rico was given a five days’ leave of absence.

The investigation of charges against Policeman Murray, made by J. D. Bethune, will be held at the next board meeting, next Tuesday morning, W. W. Weldeman will be Murray’s counsel.

This story first appeared here on Medium.