ANCHORAGE, Alaska _ Forty years ago, Marilyn Bailey was fresh out of Angelo State University in Texas with a degree in drama when her car caught fire. She was fine, but the car burned to its wheels. Then a $600 insurance check arrived in the mail. She was 21 and she "wanted to do something significant," she said. So she bought a ticket to Alaska.
Two weeks after she got here, an employment agency sent her to the Anchorage Police Department for a job as a records clerk. She had no idea she was on her way to becoming a trailblazer.
Back then, in the early '70s, APD still operated like the police department in a black-and-white movie. Women, in their uniform pencil-skirts, worked in the office, typing reports written by patrolmen. For three years, Bailey typed away. Reading about all those police cases, she got a good idea of what officers did out on the streets.
"I just thought, 'I could do that,' " she said.
She and other female records clerks were already being asked to do things outside of the secretarial scope. They searched female prisoners and went to the hospital to take statements from rape victims. Some of them, including Bailey, were sent undercover to apply for jobs at massage parlors. Afterwards, they wrote reports that led to prosecutions. Kind of like police work, except records clerks made less than half a patrolman's salary.
In 1973, a patrolman position opened up and Bailey applied. A captain brought the application back to her.
"He said, 'See, Marilyn, the position is patrolMAN.' "
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