Sylvia Hunsicker

Portrait of Sylvia Hunsicker by Kane McIntyre
Portrait of Sylvia Hunsicker by Kane McIntyre, CC BY-NC


by Lidia Kapala

Sylvia Hunsicker was hired in 1911 as a Registration Clerk, but later on she transferred to the Police Department in 1915.  Police womxn had to work hard to get the job in the police force since it was required for womxn to have a college degree, where men only needed a high school diploma.  In 1925, she was the first and only womxn to wear a police uniform, which she had made herself that was made up of a long coat and hat, both carrying the Seattle Police Department badge. Her independence was a hallmark of her career. She was discharged or suspended more than once throughout her services as a police officer. In 1917 one of the reasons cited was “engaging in work other than that assigned to her”. Around the 1910s and ‘20s, policewomxn were assigned to the Women’s Protective Division and their main job was to do rescue work of children and patrol dances. They always had to travel in pairs and earned the nickname “The Purity Squad.”Hunsicker always would try to step out of her gender norms and continue to compete head to head with the male officers.

She was the most memorable womxn in the Seattle Police Department and became famous for walking a beat down in the shipyards where she watched out for young children who would wander off and get lost on the docks while their parents waited on the arrival or departure of the ships. She also kept an eye out for young girls who would come to the big city alone and didn’t know where to go and help them out as much as she could.

During the depression years in the thirties, the Seattle city government ran out of money. The government jobs such as police and fire department received vouchers instead of their paychecks. They would have to go out and find people who would take and cash the vouchers because there was no money in the city treasury to redeem them. Sylvia Hunsicker who had money, helped keep a bankrupt city afloat during the Depression by cashing police paychecks with her own money. She retired in 1936 at age of 67 and to this day she still inspires other womxn on how she helped pave the way for female officers.


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Badass Womxn in the Pacific Northwest Copyright © 2019 by UWB Zine Queenz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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