The Secret Service recognizes the 50th anniversary of the appointment of the first female special agents to its ranks and has released a commemorative video in honor of the occasion.
Officers Laurie Anderson, Sue Ann Baker, Kathryn Clark, Holly Hufschmidt and Phyllis Shantz had previously served in the Executive Protective Service, today called the Uniformed Division, and were sworn in to the community of federal special agents during a ceremony at the Treasury Department December 15, 1971.
The unprecedented appointment of women into the ranks of federal special agents was significant within the law enforcement community of the time, and the Secret Service was one of the first federal law enforcement agencies to break this mold in 1971.
“We didn’t have an alternative other than to do it; to do it right, to jump a little higher, to try a little harder to shoot a little straighter,” says Kathryn (Clark) Childers, one of the first five women sworn in. “I am pleased and proud of the Secret Service for making gender a non-issue.”
Prior to the Secret Service leading the change to open the workforce to women, women were dismissed, even told by hiring officials in the early 1900s that “the work of this Service does not call for the employment of female operatives” or “When a woman’s services are required, it is usually only for a short period, and some female member of the family of one of the operatives is generally engaged for the emergency.”
Since that turning point in 1971, the Secret Service has made many strides toward complete equality throughout their ranks. Women have held nearly every leadership position that men have held including, Director Julia Pierson, Deputy Director Barbara Riggs, Assistant Director for the Office of Protective Operations Kimberly Cheatle, and many more leadership roles. Today’s Secret Service also has female members assigned to the agency’s highly specialized operations division teams including the Counter Assault and Hazardous Agent Mitigation Medical Response teams.
Every day, women and men contribute equally to the success of the agency as it focuses on an integrated mission of protection and investigations; safeguarding the nation’s highest elected leaders and their families, while securing the integrity of country’s critical financial networks from a broad range of criminal activity.
The Secret Service has been working diligently to continue growing the agency’s female ranks, with the current number of female employees at 24%.
“What I am hoping for is that we continue the momentum of recruiting, hiring and retaining and advancing women in the Secret Service,” says first Latina Deputy Assistant Director Darnelly DeJesus.