The pioneering policewomen of the HPD

Please take down these names from the history of the Houston Police Department.

The very first sworn female officer:  Eva Jane Bacher, Detective, 1917 – Intrastate and Interstate Pullman Car robberies and thefts; “vice and morals” cases; world traveler.

First female officers to go through the HPD Academy:  Class No. 12 sworn in on Aug. 16, 1955 by Chief Jack Heard:  Addie Jean Smith, Jo Bankston, Mercedes Halvorsen Singleton and Emily Rimmer Vasquez.

First female Homicide Detective in the United States (and HPD):  Lannie Dickson [Stevenson] 1968.

First Sex Crimes Detectives:  1974 – Pat Faulks, Jessie White, Rosemary Rowell, Carolyn Ewton, Terry Stark.

First Robbery Detectives:  1975 – Janet Lee, Phyllis Aranza [later Assistant Chief], Pam Jackson [McConathy]

First female probationary officers to go directly on the streets:  Class No. 67 – sworn in on March 7,1975 by Chief Carrol Lynn – 20 years after Class No. 12.

These officers, and many more, all made history at the Houston Police Department in their own inimitable way. Herewith, we begin their stories.

Part 1

Detective Eva Jane Bacher

The first known sworn Houston female officer and detective was Eva Jane Bacher. She may have been the first in Texas.  Putting her history together is a major investigation in and of itself.  It’s something of a jigsaw puzzle – a little piece here, a little piece there – that truly reveals how far women’s rights in American society has advanced in the last 120 years.

The things that were done to her professionally would have several multi-million-dollar lawsuits flying all over the place today and most certainly all of the talk show appearances she could stand.  She started paving the way here in Houston for the women officers that have followed both here as well as the rest of the country.

It all started in Vinton, Iowa, on Aug. 4, 1876, when Eva Jane Todd was born.  It ended 84 years later in San Antonio on May 5, 1961.  Her final resting place is Forest Park Lawndale here in Houston.

In between, she managed two marriages and divorces, her first Ex doing time in New York, one son- Robert Bacher, Colonel U. S. Army Retired, – no children/grandchildren, 10 years as an HPD detective working the streets daily with intrastate and interstate cases, two trips to Europe, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, an active part in the International Policewomen’s Association, as well as working private security for Foley’s and other large department stores.

She was summarily dismissed April 18, 1929, after 12 years of service, along with about 20 other male detectives [one of which was Emil “Mickey” Berner, HPROA member, retired Robbery Detective Fred Berner’s grandfather] in the usual “big shakeup” of the department when a new mayor and police chief came into office, but mainly because the new chief didn’t like women police officers or police horses.  Keeping his promises, McPhail got rid of both in “one fell swoop.”

I’ll try to detail more in the next instalment, which should reveal how policing has changed.