Friday, July 9, 2010

Woman marshal in the Gateway to the West

Saint Louis, Missouri, calls itself the Gateway to the West. In the late 1880s, the city was beset by a ring of counterfeiters. But an intrepid U.S. Marshal put an end to their activities -- U.S. Marshal Phoebe W. Couzins. And it was not the first time she had led her deputies in the pursuit and capture of criminals who broke federal law.

Phoebe was made a deputy marshal by her father, U.S. Marshal J.E.D. Couzins, in 1887. She was the first. Couzins was confident Phoebe could do the job because she'd already racked up a list of firsts. She was the first woman graduate of Washington University Law School in Saint Louis. She was the first woman to pass the Missouri bar exam. She was also the first professional woman lawyer in the United States. Becoming a U.S. Marshal by President Grover Cleveland merely added another first for Phoebe.

She was a well-known campaigner for women's rights, but died in 1913, seven years before the 19th amendment gave national suffrage to women. Rumor says she asked that her U.S. Marshal's badge be buried with her.

(From the files of the now-defunct National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History)
(Photo from