Pittsburgh: The Beginning
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Steel Town, USA. It’s the Roaring Twenties and American women’s voices have risen to a roar. They were heard across the nation and all the way to the United States Congress, which passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Women were organizing!
Pittsburgh women caught the fever and organized a “Ladies Auxiliary” to the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 in November 1920. They joined their husbands on the picket line to secure pay increases and better working conditions for the police officers of Pittsburgh.
Key players in this pioneering effort were Kathryn Milton and Mary McNamara. Kathryn Milton drew up the by-laws and served as the first president. Restricted from membership in the FOP because of her gender, female Pittsburgh Police Officer Mary Hummel was among the charter members of that first Ladies Auxiliary.
From the shores of Lake Erie to the eastern border of Pennsylvania, “sisters” joined to create two more Auxiliaries in Erie and Scranton. Policewoman Elizabeth Jeffs organized the Erie Auxiliary and the third Auxiliary was formed to the E.B. Jermyn FOP Lodge No. 2 in Scranton.
Milestones and Sidesteps to Organizing the Auxiliary
1922: National FOP was notified that the functioning Ladies Auxiliaries wanted the FOP to “charter” their organizations. A resolution was passed by the FOP allowing this, but no further action was taken.
1926: National FOP advised the Ladies Auxiliaries to become incorporated to obtain legal standing. The Ladies Auxiliary petitioned the FOP to allow Auxiliaries to incorporate and applied for a charter in the name of the “Grand Lodge Auxiliary.” The petition was accepted by the FOP, but no further action was taken.
1937: The Auxiliaries, through Edythe Hinkle of Canton, Ohio, asked for “official recognition” and action to “clarify our status.” No further action was taken.
1941: In September 1941, at the FOP National Conference in Toledo, Ohio, the Grand Lodge Auxiliary was organized. Kathryn Milton, the Pittsburgh pioneer in the Ladies Auxiliary, was elected National President.
1949: World War II had delayed the growth of the National Auxiliary. With the war effort over, the ladies’ efforts began again and at the National FOP Conference of 1949 in Lexington, Kentucky, the official charter was presented to the Grand Lodge Ladies Auxiliary by the FOP.
Grand Gatherings of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s
Banquet dinners, tuxedos and formals. Edith Mills, National Auxiliary President from 1949 to 1953, recalls that a peach-colored gown was her favorite for one conference.
Attire during conferences had been formal. Rituals for the Auxiliary required the wearing of white gloves. Hats were not allowed during meetings up until the 1970s. It was during the 1970s that attire became more casual. Dresses also became a sign of unity, with Auxiliaries within state delegations dressing in similar styles (some wore uniforms) or styles that reflected their regionalism. The entire delegation from Oklahoma wore red and white checkered outfits to show support for a candidate. Their outfits reflected a western motif. Who couldn’t recognize the great state of New Mexico’s delegates with their serapes?!
In 1959, the Kathryn M. Milton Scholarship Fund was established. The Grand Lodge Auxiliary provides an educational grant awarded annually through a random drawing for contributing Auxiliaries. Children of FOP members and Auxiliary members are eligible for this grant.
The Auxiliary newsletter, the Journalette, was first published in the early 1960s, then discontinued for several years, to be reinstated in 1973. At the 30th Biennial Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona, the Journalette was officially renamed the Auxiliary Journal.
Breaking Traditions and Stereotypes in the 1980s
The 1980s brought a time of change, breaking traditions and tearing down old stereotypes. It was a time to come from behind the bake sale table to the front…to the podium. No longer did the Auxiliary simply conduct the Memorial Service at National Conference but in the early 1980s the Auxiliary President was given the opportunity to address the entire delegation at the Conference gathering!
A program to honor fallen law enforcement officers was established, and on May 15, 1982, the first National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Service was held in Senate Park in Washington, D.C. There were approximately 125 in attendance.
In 1984, the FOP Auxiliary lent its assistance to organizing a national peer-support organization for the surviving families of officers killed in the line of duty and the Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) was born. Suzie Sawyer, National President from 1985 to 1989, was asked to serve as the Executive Director of COPS.
In 1985, membership eligibility that originally allowed only females as members was extended to family members (18 years of age or older) of any member of the Fraternal Order of Police.
In 1987, the FOP Auxiliary first legally admitted males to its membership and in 1989 the name of the organization was changed, dropping the word “Ladies” to reflect the growth in the membership of the organization. Gene Maule, husband of Oklahoma police officer Karen Maule, was initiated as the first “Official Male Member” with all membership privileges of the FOP Auxiliary.
Moving Into the 21st Century
Today we find members of the FOP Auxiliary on crisis intervention teams, doing presentations on body armor wear, visiting newly bereaved families and properly meeting their support needs, speaking out on issues of substance abuse, presenting spouse orientation sessions in police academies, assisting with legislative matters, and many, many vitally important jobs in support of their law enforcement officers.
The Auxiliary is no longer an organization that waits to be asked. We are an organization that is asking our own questions and seeking answers to our questions.
Volunteerism is still a key word in Auxiliary work. A few FOP Auxiliary officers serve with only small stipends and the others without any compensation.
At a time when each and every national cause is organizing peer-support groups, the Auxiliary sees clearly the problems facing police families and has more than 50 years’ experience in making the peer-support concept work.