History in the Making: Female Firsts in Law Enforcement

Published on March 14, 2023 This blog was originally published on the Denver…

History in the Making: Female Firsts in Law Enforcement

Published on March 14, 2023

History in the Making: Female Firsts in Law Enforcement

This blog was originally published on the Denver Sheriff Department website on 3/4/20.

Ida Younger

We recently received a message on the Denver Sheriff Department (DSD) Facebook page explaining that Ida Moss Younger was on hospice care and was expected to pass within days, if not hours. This message acted as an introduction to an incredible human being. Little did we know, Ida was the first female to work as a deputy for the DSD, starting her career with us in 1958. Her accomplishments were vast, before and after working as a deputy, and her skills were insurmountable. We got to know her better after reading her obituary, posted on her Facebook page after her death on February 21, 2020.

Ida Moss Younger was born on September 2, 1927 to Floyd and Virgil Mae Lightfoot Younger on the family farm at Elmo, MO. Her middle name, Moss, came from her grandmother, Emma Moss. Ida was born 7th of 8 children, 3 girls and 5 boys.

Ida started her career in law enforcement as a store detective in Denver for 4 years, which lead to her becoming a deputy sheriff in 1958 with the Denver County Sheriff Department; reportedly the first female deputy in the State of Colorado. In 1970, Ida was assigned to work as a marshal in the Denver County court system, working with female prisoners and prisoner transport. She retired in 1988 after 30 years of service.

[Above image credit: Getty Images (left); Ida Younger Facebook page (right)]

Throughout her law enforcement career, Ida excelled in competitive shooting, earning 29 National Sharpshooter certificates and hundreds of trophies, as well as six National Women’s Police Combat Champion Distinguished Medals. Ida also held 14 National Pistol Championship records. Ida earned an expert rating from the National Rifle Association and won or placed in many state and national shooting competitions. She reloaded most of the bullets that she used in competition.

Ida was the first woman to be the president of the National Peace Officers Association, an office she held for two years. She was a patron member of the National Rifle Association and taught hunters safety and home firearms safety to thousands of students through the NRA. She was a charter member of, and speaker for, Women in NRA. Ida was an avid fisherman and hunter, shooting a buck deer last fall at the age of 92. She enjoyed knitting and many family members were recipients of her handmade quilts. Ida enjoyed being with her many friends.

[Above image credit: Ida Younger Facebook page]

Ida had been battling cancer for the last year and finished her battle on February 21, 2020 at The Oaks assisted living in Fruita, CO. She will be greatly missed by her many friends and family.

Ida is preceded in death by her parents and siblings, except for one brother. She is survived by her brother Richard (Doc) of North Carolina; several nieces and nephews; great and great-great nieces and nephews; and many friends who considered her family.

[Above image credit: Ida Younger Facebook page]

We’re honored to have a glimpse into Ida Younger’s life as a successful woman, talented person, and beloved friend and family member. We wish all who were touched by her in life, peace in her death.

Sadie Likens

The following information was included in the DSD employee newsletter in honor of Women’s History Month. Written by one of our deputies, the following information from Policeone.com was included in the introduction: “Women currently account for only 13% of the police workforce in the United States and only 3% of police chiefs.” Considering the current gender disparity within law enforcement, Sadie Likens’ story, beginning in the late 1800s, is nothing short of astounding. 

Born Sarah Jane Morehouse on July 14, 1840, in Trenton, Ohio, Sarah was called “Sadie” from an early age. Although born in Ohio, she was raised in Iowa and Wisconsin where she worked as a nurse tending to wounded Civil War soldiers from the battlefield.

In 1859, at the age of 19, she married a farmer named David Washburn. A year later, they had a son, and by 22 Sadie was a widow. David died of a common wartime malady shortly after their son, Fred, passed away from pneumonia.



In 1869, in Lancaster, Wisconsin, Sadie remarried and had four children with her second husband, William Wallace Likens. In 1877, William was indicted for forgery, jumped bond, and fled to California. Sadie stayed behind in Wisconsin with the children while William resumed his law practice and was later charged with fraudulently changing real estate records. He was tried twice, acquitted both times, but disbarred by a higher court, regardless of the findings. Not realizing that he was disbarred in Wisconsin, the California Supreme Court readmitted William to the bar.

In 1881, the Likens family moved to Boulder, Colorado where William opened a law practice. But in 1884, he was once again indicted for forgery and subsequently sentenced to four years of hard labor. After being released on good behavior, having realized that his marriage to Sadie was unsalvageable, he moved to Washington state, leaving Sadie and the children in Colorado. Finally, Sadie moved her family down to Denver City. 

In 1887, Sadie served as a matron at the Women’s Christian Temperance Union on Blake Street. In 1888, she was hired as a jail matron of the, then, Arapahoe County Sheriff Office. For the first time, a woman would look after female prisoners at the city jail. Her job description designated that she could be summoned at any time to oversee incoming female prisoners and attend to their needs. Sadie became the second female jailer in the nation, the first installed in Chicago.




[Above image reads: “A native of Ohio, prominently identified with charity and temperance work in all of their phases, and known as one of the most successful Department Presidents of the Colorado-Wyoming W.R.C.”]

Sadie also responded to any reports of abused women and children. With Denver’s growing population, the workload required the force to add another matron to the payroll. Deciding to keep its matron duties in the hands of the Likens family, officials appointed Sadie’s daughter, Ada Belle, Assistant Police Matron on May 6, 1891. With the arrival of Governor Davis Waite, however, Ada was replaced by Kate Dwyer and a second assistant matron, Mrs. Otto W. Frinke, was hired.

Early in May 1894, Dwyer’s salary increased by ten dollars a month and Sadie’s was cut by the same amount, making their salaries equal at seventy-five dollars per month which, consequently, gave them equal power as matrons. Sadie was dismissed from the matron position on July 10, 1894, when the fire and police board elected to terminate one of the three matrons on the payroll. Although she expressed a desire to resign several times prior to being let go, her friends persuaded her to stay–they recognized the value of her work. Public sympathy ran in her favor, as political scandal incited from her dismissal.

Likens gave testimony at a hearing against Governor Waite, President Mullins of the fire and police board, Chief of Police Hamilton Armstrong, and Police Matron Kate Dwyer who pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy. The charges were brought on due to a letter intended for the ex-matron, Sadie Likens, accusing her of being an immoral person. Sadie testified that the reason given for her dismissal was “economy,” but in a letter by Jesse Parr, she was referred to as an improper person for the office of matron.

During the hearing, District Attorney Johnson asked Sadie about her political affiliation, stating “As all defendants are members of the Populist Party, that of the witness is a member of the Republic Party and that every effort was made to get her out of office,” (The Carroll Sentinel, 31 Aug 1894, p 5).



In January 1895, Sadie replaced Dwyer as police matron and Matilda S. Billington replaced Frinke as assistant matron. Soon after, the new fire and police board eliminated any differences between the matron and assistant matron positions, making the positions equal. Sadie believed that only one person should be responsible and in charge, however, stating that she would continue as matron only if she remained chief of the department. This did not happen and she resigned in 1894.

After her resignation, Likens continued charity work for women and children, as well as supporting veterans. She became superintendent of the State Home and Industrial School for Girls, a school that helped girls up to age of 18 who had been convicted of crimes. In 1897, she worked for the Florence Crittenton social agency, a shelter that helped young poor women.

In October 1899, she was matron of The County Hospital. Sadie also served as the first matron of the Colorado Cottage Home and, for many years, she was an active member of the Denver Orphans Home and the Old Ladies’ Home boards.



[Above image: Sadie Likens memorial in Civic Center Park, Denver, Colorado.]

In her earlier years, along with two others, she helped start the Farragut Relief Corp. The organization was a ladies’ auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Sadie was chair of the committee that founded the Young Women’s Friendly League, an organization that became part of the City Temple Institutional Society in 1900. She was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames of America and served as chaplain of the Oriental Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. She did relief work during the Spanish-American War, as well as volunteering with the American Legion during World War I.

On July 30, 1920, at the age of 80, Sadie Likens’s long life as a public servant came to an end–she succumbed to a long term illness. In 1923, a memorial marker in her honor was placed across from the Colorado State Capitol at 1498 N. Broadway and proudly stands there to this day.