This year the U.S. Secret Service is recognizing the 50th anniversary of the appointment of the agency’s first female special agents.
Former Executive Protective Service (modern-day Uniformed Division) officers Laurie Anderson, Sue Ann Baker, Kathryn Clark, Holly Hufschmidt and Phyllis Shantz were sworn in during a ceremony at the Treasury Department December 15, 1971.
At the time they were hired, it was noted that the agents would be involved in protective and investigative responsibilities and “be expected to do everything the men do and will receive equal pay.” In addition to their prior police officer experience, the women were trained in hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, first aid, human relations, communications and search and seizure.
Their appointments were a significant achievement, and a far different outcome from a time when women seeking a career in federal law enforcement, including the Secret Service, were not hired. 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.”
Although the women appointed 50 years ago had different career paths and tenures with the Secret Service, their prominence as commissioned federal law enforcement agents and their professionalism have significantly impacted the agency. It is because of their outstanding legacies that the Secret Service remains committed to hiring a diverse cadre of talented women within its law enforcement ranks. When Special Agent Training Class 387 graduated in April of 2021, it marked the first instance in which women trainees outnumbered the men.
It is an honor and a privilege to acknowledge the 50th anniversary of the Secret Service’s outstanding female trailblazers and recognize the tremendous impact they left on the scores of women who continue to follow in their footsteps, committed to excellence in their law enforcement careers.