Megan Adams

Public Servants, Public Employees, Public Enemies, Organizing the Chicago Police, 1952-1984

My dissertation, “Public Servants, Public Employees, Public Enemies: Organizing the Chicago Police, 1952-1984,” uncovers a history of labor militancy and activism within the Chicago police department. Historians have identified the police as a powerful force in shaping the postwar “urban crisis,” yet little is known about police as historical actors in their own right. Questions of identity, and particularly race and gender, were central to the development of Chicago police labor politics. Arguing that the unionization of unique categories of city workers redefined municipal labor politics in the late twentieth century, my dissertation examines the intersection of racial and gender politics of the police they began to assert their demands as workers. Black police challenged the discriminatory practices of one of the city’s most racist institutions. Police wives and policewomen clashed over the police department’s gender policies. Meanwhile, majority-white police organizations challenged longstanding loyalties within Chicago’s Democratic Machine and reconstituted themselves as a new political entity in the city.