Gertrude Schimmel in 1971, when she became a captain. NEAL BOENZI / THE NEW YORK TIMES

Last week Monday, May 10th, just a few months after being honored by the NYPD during women’s history month, a Bronx trailblazer passed away at the ripe old age of 96 years.

Gertrude Schimmell, who was the first NYPD female police chief, was born and raised in The Bronx and attended Morris High School before heading on to Hunter College.

The New York Times wrote:

“Gertrude was a real trendsetter who not only broke a very significant glass ceiling in the department many years ago, but smashed through it,” Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said in a statement.

When Ms. Schimmel joined the department on June 5, 1940, female officers could not be promoted above the entry-level post of policewoman, and they were not allowed to go out on patrol.

In 1943, policewomen were issued a black shoulder bag with space for a holster but also a makeup kit. “Use the gun as you would your lipstick,” Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia said. “Don’t overdo either one.”

Like all female department members, Ms. Schimmel was assigned to the Bureau of Policewomen when she graduated from the Police Academy. In her early years with the department, her son said, she took part in undercover work breaking up gambling operations. She later joined the Youth Aid Division, which found temporary shelter for children whose parents were unable to care for them. It was the type of assignment given to women to keep them from confrontations with criminals.”

Born Gertrude Tannenbaum on Dec. 9, 1918, in the Bronx, she was the youngest of three children of immigrants from Austria. Her father, Asher, worked in a clothing factory, then owned a small egg business. Her mother, Ida, died when she was 16, leaving her with household responsibilities. She was an outstanding student at Morris High School and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Hunter College.”

Gertrude Schimmel being honored earlier this year during Women's History Month by the NYPD / Image Courtesy of NYPD Blog.
Gertrude Schimmel being honored earlier this year during Women’s History Month by the NYPD / Image Courtesy of NYPD News.

The NYPD News wrote of Schimmell:

“Gertrude was a real trend-setter who not only broke a very significant glass ceiling in the department many years ago, but smashed through it,” Police Commissioner Bratton said.

In 1940 Gertrude Schimmel, along with 18 other women, joined 300 men in the NYPD Police Academy. In 1961, Ms. Schimmel and fellow pioneer Felicia Shpritzer sued the NYPD for the right to sit for promotional civil service exams.  They won their fight, and in 1965 Ms. Schimmel became the Department’s first female sergeant, lieutenant in 1967 and captain in 1971. 
Ms. Schimmel still stayed close to those in the NYPD, always attending the annual Women’s History Month Celebration held in Police Headquarters. This year she was honored by the Department’s Policewomen’s Endowment Association.”

Read more over at The New York Times: Gertrude Schimmel, First Female New York Police Chief, Dies at 96 – NYTimes.com

PS:  Don’t you think THIS is someone that should be honored on the Concourse on the Bronx Walk of Fame? These are the heroes we should be celebrating!

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