Saturday, February 11, 2012

Female Flatfoots of Old Chicago

Strayer's story reminded me of one of her contemporaries, one of the most fascinating and inspiring figures in early 20th-century Chicago: an early feminist, an outspoken woman who could be as tough with her ex and judges as she was with criminals, and an entertainingly canny self-promoter who was, for a brief period, a public figure of considerable reknown—yet almost completely unsung today.

Like Strayer, Alice Clement was a gumshoe, but Clement spent her life working for the Chicago Police Department as the city's first female detective. And like Strayer, she made headlines; when I came across Clement's name—she doesn't have much of a legacy on the Web—I read through her press clippings, enthralled. And there were many: Clement was a woman of great integrity and intellectual independence, but she had a P.T. Barnum streak in her as well. Which is why I was surprised that very little had been written about her since her death.

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