Constance Kopp – Determined Heroine Turned Law Enforcement Officer

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Back in January I started a series of articles about several amazing women who paved the way for females in various branches of law enforcement. If you missed the prior posts you can find them here:

 

Today I want to discuss Constance Kopp, who is the very definition of a feisty woman. Even within this series of trailblazing women, Constance’s story is a remarkable one.

Constance’s father wasn’t in the picture much and was an alcoholic) Early in her life Constance was determined to have a career outside the home and attempted to study both law and medicine. Her mother, however, wouldn’t allow her to complete her studies, leaving Constance frustrated and rebellious. It is rumored that the youngest sister, Fleurette (love that name!) was actually her daughter, the result of a youthful indiscretion.

Constance, however, was no shrinking violet. Standing a good 6ft tall and weighing in at 180lbs, she was a formidable presence, one who loomed over most men of that time. That, coupled with her forceful personality and her father’s frequent absences, was likely why she became the de facto head of household, the person the rest of the family turned to for guidance when things turned bleak – which they did soon enough.

The extraordinary trouble entered the Kopp women’s lives in July of 1914, when Constance was 35, with what should have been a simply resolved traffic accident. Henry Kaufman, the wealthy owner of a silk factory, crashed his car into the Kopp family carriage that Constance and her two sisters were riding in. The accident resulted in damage to the carriage, including breaking the shaft.

Constance made several attempts to get Mr. Kaufman to pay for the damages. When he refused, Constance, not one to back down when she was in the right, decided to file a lawsuit. The courts awarded her $50. Kaufman was outraged to be held accountable and at one point accosted Constance on the streets. Undeterred, Constance promptly had him arrested.

But that was only the beginning of the man’s unreasonable reaction. Prowlers began roaming around the Kopp home, where the three sisters lived with their widowed mother. Vandals broke in and damaged furnishings. The Kopps received threatening letters. One threatened to burn down their home, another demanded $1000 with the threat of dire consequences if they refused, and still another threatened to kidnap Fleurette, still a teen, and sell her into white slavery. And while all this was happening they also had to deal with random shots being fired into their home.

Constance turned to Sheriff Robert Heath for help. Luckily Heath was a progressive minded man. He not only took the situation very seriously – the only person on the police force who did so – but he immediately armed the three sisters with revolvers.

Constance agreed to go ‘undercover’, agreeing to meet the writer of the threatening letters on not one but two separate occasions. They ultimately found enough evidence to convict Kaufman and he was forced  to pay a $1000 fine ad was warned he would serve jail time if the harassment of the Kopps didn’t cease immediately.

Sheriff Heath was very impressed with Constance’s bravery and determination, so much so  that he offered her the position of Under Sheriff, making her the first woman ever to hold that position. And this was no sham title. One of Constance’s early cases was to track down an escaped prisoner, something she handled with unexpected ease. She held the job for two years, losing it only after Sheriff Heath was replaced by someone less progressively-minded.

Her story was virtually forgotten until an author, researching some information for a book she was writing, stumbled across an article in some old newspaper archives, that led her down an unexpected trail. Amy Stewart eventually wrote several books that were fictionalized accounts of the Kopp sisters’ experiences, starting with Girl Waits With Gun.

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There you have it, another very brief sketch of the trailblazing life of a brave and ahead-of-her-times woman. What struck you most about her? If you’d already heard of her, did you learn anything new, or do you have more to add to her story?

 

 

I’m very excited to announce the upcoming release of my latest western romance, Sawyer. Sawyer is the 6th book in the Bachelors & Babies series – another Filly, Pam Crooks, had the lead off book, Trace. These books are all stand alone but have been proving to be popular with readers – fingers crossed that my book will continue that trend! Sawyer will officially release on Nov 1 and is now available for preorder.

 

Sawyer Flynn vows to see that the man who murdered his brother pays for his crimes, but becoming the sole caretaker of an orphaned infant sidetracks him from the mission. Sawyer can’t do it all—run his mercantile, care for the baby, and find justice for his brother. He needs help. But not from Emma Jean Gilley.

When her father flees town after killing a man, Emma Jean is left alone to care for her kid brother, but her father’s crime has made her a pariah and no one will give her a job. Learning of Sawyer’s need, Emma Jean makes her case to step in as nanny.

Sawyer is outraged by Emma Jean’s offer, but he’s also desperate and he reluctantly agrees to a temporary trial. Working together brings understanding, and maybe something more. But just when things heat up between Sawyer and Emma Jean, the specter of her father’s crimes threatens to drive them apart forever.

To learn more or pre-order, click HERE

Winnie Griggs
Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at www.facebook.com/WinnieGriggs.Author or email her at winnie@winniegriggs.com.
Updated: October 6, 2019 — 1:08 pm

32 Comments

  1. Good morning Winnie- I loved this little trip back in time. Constance was truly a force to wrecking with. It’s amazing how many women back in time deserved so much credit, but were passed by due to their male counterparts of the time. Thanks for sharing. Happy Fall!

    1. Hi Tonya, glad you’re enjoying this series. And Happy Fall to you too!

  2. Avatar

    I have loved all your blogs about these historic woman that should stand out in history yet I’ve never heard of! Thanks for sharing! I love the history all you Phillies teach me!!

    Constance was definitely a woman ahead of her time. I admire her grit! I’ve never heard of her before. I’m truly amazed by her determination to not let Henry Kaufman get away with his crimes and harassment! Not many woman possess that much courage and determination in this day and time much less back then. Whomever became sheriff after Heath really missed out by not keeping Constance on as Under Sheriff. I love her name and it’s funny how she lived up to it!

    I’d love the opportunity to read your new book and I’m going to have to check out Amy Stewart’s series about the Kopp sisters’!

    1. Thanks Stephanie! These women are not only great role models but they also provide fun inspiration for future stories 🙂

  3. I love these stories. Good for her to not back down and to take it further.

    1. Thanks Debra. She certainly had a lot of gumption!

  4. Love this story, she really stood up to them. Makes me proud to be a women to know that she stood up to them.I don’t think women do that enough.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. And you’re right, I wish more of these stories were available for our daughters to hear.

  5. wow I work for Indiana DNR Law Enforcement as the Office Manager and had no idea – thanks for the interesting history lesson!

    1. You’re welcome Teresa. And there is the problem, so many of these brave, independent women’s stories are buried and unknown. Wish there was a way to get the word out more widely.

  6. Never heard of Constance but I like her for not backing down and for the brave sheriff who helped her out when she needed it most. Awesome bit of history.

    jennydtipton at gmail dot com

    1. Yep, it seems backing down was not in her nature. Who knows what she could have accomplished if her mother hadn’t gotten in the way of her getting a medical or law degree.

  7. I’ve never heard of Constance before, but somehow it doesn’t surprise me that a woman like her existed! Glad she didn’t back down, and how wonderful that the Sheriff had the smarts to hire her!! Too bad the next one was a weakling. Your book sounds great, too!!

    1. Hi Trudy. Yes, Sheriff Heath sounds like great hero material himself doesn’t he. And thanks for the kind words about my book.

  8. Winnie thank you for this fascinating post!

  9. Constance was a formidable woman.

    1. Indeed she was! Thanks for stopping by.

  10. I have so enjoyed reading about these amazing women in history. Thank you for sharing them. Congratulations on your newest book. It sounds wonderful.

    1. So glad you enjoy the posts, Lori, and thanks for the kind words on my upcoming release

  11. What a great post. We could use more women like Constance on the force!

  12. Winnie, I loved the info about Constance! Hooray for her! So glad there were women like her to blaze the trail! Your new book looks great!

    1. Hi Valri! She was quite a feisty heroine wasn’t she. And thanks so much for the kind words about my book.

  13. Winnie, I’m amazed at the number of women in the law enforcement field that early on before they even achieved the right to vote. Wow! Huge congrats for the upcoming release! Yippee! Sawyer looks great! I’m loving this Bachelors and Babies continuity series. Besides, I love the name Sawyer!

    1. Hi Linda. I was pretty surprised when I started research for this series as well. Makes you wonder how many women did this kind of work whose stories have been lost altogether. And thanks! It was such fun being part of this series and I have to admit, I fell in love with this story as I was writing it, especially the hero! 🙂

  14. Thank you for another mini-biography of an unusual woman. She was lucky the sheriff was a man open to new ideas and not afraid to act on them. It is interesting that he armed all three sisters. It would be interesting to find out what she did with the rest of her life.
    Sawyer sounds like it will be another good book. Not all men are overwhelmed by the care of an infant, but few are prepared for it. Best wishes for a good release.

    1. Thanks Patricia. Glad you enjoyed the post, and yes Sheriff Heath was a man ahead of his time. I’m afraid I couldn’t find any info on her life afterr she left law enforcement but I’ll bet she remained a pistol!
      And thank you for your kind words about my upcoming release!

  15. First of all Congratulations on your new Release, it sounds like a very good read and I love the cover , it is Beautiful! Wow, I enjoyed this article about Constance, what a brave and courages lady she was, good for her , she did not let people take advantage of her and her family! Thank you so much for posting this article, again , I learned some history, Thank you so very much . Have a Great week.

    1. Hi Alicia, so glad you enjoyed the post and thanks so much for those sweet words about my new book!

  16. Huh, well I’ve never heard her story before. That is interesting! I’d be a little angry with all that harassment, too. Good for her standing up for herself and sisters!

    1. Hi Susan, yes, she certainly knew how to stand up for herself and her family!

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