Methods: I locate, evaluate, and systematically analyze primary sources from digital and physical archives, including materials such as Women’s Protective Division reports, War Department Commission on Training Camp Activities reports, official letters from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, handwritten notes, personal scrapbooks, and correspondence. I supplement these materials with information from Progressive Era news articles from publications such as the Sunset Pacific Monthly, the Oregonian, and the Oakland Tribune. I thematically analyze sources using a combination of inductive and deductive approaches. Where possible, I triangulate claims using multiple types of archival data.
Results: Baldwin’s preferred identity as a social worker enabled her to pioneer new forms of preventative policing that would significantly expand the scope and power of law enforcement in the late 20th century. She used her police power to collect and share personal information that would later be used to imprison women. At the same time that she advocated for “alternatives” to prisons and jails, she incessantly fought to increase the length of sentences for girls and women whom she arrested. When judges refused to give women longer sentences out of concern for overcrowded jails, Baldwin organized a coalition of people to assist her in designing, funding, building, and running correctional facilities. Medical detention facilities, women’s prisons, and reformatories for women and girls–each allowed for the implementation of a new penology characterized by indeterminate sentencing, indentured servitude, and social control.
Conclusions and Implications: It has been over a century since Baldwin used her law enforcement experience to inform an influential campaign to create new institutions of confinement across the West and Pacific Northwest. This research adds to a relatively thin knowledge of social work and Progressive Era corrections. The findings offer important insights for the future of macro practice in the criminal-legal system. Baldwin’s legacy is particularly relevant for social workers considering criminal-legal reforms that expand the size and scope of the criminal-legal system in the name of feminism, gender justice, and youth justice (i.e., carceral feminist reforms); as well as social workers exploring the role of social work and police work in the 21st century.