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:
- Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton Agent.
- Phoebe Couzins, the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Marshal service.
- Marie Owens – First US Female Police Officer
- F.M. Miller – Female Deputy Marshal to the Indian Territory
- Ada Carnutt – U.S. Deputy Marshal
- Claire Helena Ferguson – Deputy Sheriff
- Alice Stebbins – First Female Police Officer with Arrest Authority
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