In the late twentieth century, rank-and-file members of the Chicago police struggled to organize civil rights and labor protests against the city and police department. Police wives joined them in this effort and, because they were not subject to department rules or discipline, often served as proxies for the police during workplace disputes. Developing their own series of organizations, police wives staged protests and ran petition drives in support of their husbands' initiatives. They also focused on improved police safety—an effort they said would keep police wives from becoming police widows. When Chicago policewomen went out on patrol with policemen for the first time in 1974, Chicago's police wives rallied to oppose gender equality for policewomen. Arguing that policewomen posed a safety hazard to policemen on the job, police wives also feared that the allure of policewomen would destroy their marriages. As defenders of male privilege in the police department, police wives supported a sex-segregated workplace where policewomen did their jobs as “mothers.” At the same time, they demanded an equal voice in police department politics by drawing on their status and power as wives.

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