Pauline Adelaide Haislip Duncan (1888–1973)

Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith Duncan served as one of Virginia's first female law enforcement officers. She was a charter member of the Organized Women Voters of Arlington County, which was among a number of local civic and political groups she joined after women received the right to vote. The organization pushed for a woman deputy in 1923, recommending Smith. She recorded her first criminal arrest the following year and served until 1943, surviving an attempt to remove her in 1927. Smith mostly worked on cases involving women and children, though she at times chased thieves and helped stop fights. She also aided the local Parent-Teacher Association and the Girl Scouts, helping earn her the nickname Aunt Polly. The Organized Women Voters of Arlington County honored her as its Woman of the Year in 1965. MORE...

 

Duncan was born on June 14, 1888, probably at Mason Neck, Fairfax County, where her parents, William Walter Haislip and Alice Ellen Simmons Haislip, worked at Gunston Hall, the former plantation of George Mason. The family moved in 1893 to Washington, D.C., where her father worked as a grocer, carpenter, and contractor, and where she attended public schools. In 1908 Haislip was arrested in Washington for shooting an African American youth in the knee during a Fourth of July celebration. Following an investigation of what she maintained had been an accident, authorities dropped the charges. By 1910 Haislip was employed as a manicurist in New York City. On August 15, 1913, she married Charles F. Smith in the city of Alexandria. They lived in Washington for several years.

In 1921 they purchased a house in the Virginia Highlands section of Arlington County. Pauline Smith soon immersed herself in the county's civic life. In 1923 she became a charter member of the Organized Women Voters of Arlington County and during the next two decades served on numerous committees, including the executive committee, and as a district chairman. In the mid-1920s Smith joined the women's auxiliary of the local fire department. She sat on committees of the Jefferson Civic League and was active in the local Democratic Party. Although Smith did not have children, she joined the Parent-Teacher Association of the neighborhood public school and worked with the Girl Scouts. Known in the area as Aunt Polly, she held tea parties that children later fondly remembered.

After World War I (1914–1918), many cities established women's divisions of their police departments, including Washington, D.C., in 1918. In 1923, following a case in which a young girl had to submit to a physical examination before an all-male board, the Organized Women Voters sought assurances from the candidates for Arlington County sheriff that the victor would appoint a woman deputy. The group recommended Smith as a suitable choice, and by July 1924 she had made her first criminal arrest. She numbered among the earliest female law enforcement officers in Virginia. Like other female officers, Smith most often handled cases involving women and children, although the newspapers occasionally noted her daring work chasing thieves and breaking up brawls. There was an attempt to remove her from office in 1927, but after local civic groups rallied to her defense, she was reappointed that December. In 1930 Smith helped lead the Organized Women Voters' campaign for the construction of a new jail. She continued as deputy sheriff through 1943, the only woman on a rapidly expanding force that in 1940 was divided into separate sheriff and police departments.

Smith and her husband separated in January 1936 and divorced on November 19, 1938. By March 1942 she had married Edward Greenwood Duncan, an Arlington police officer seventeen years her junior, who died after a long illness on September 4, 1943. The Organized Women Voters of Arlington County named Duncan its Woman of the Year in 1965 for her many contributions to the community. Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith Duncan died at an Alexandria nursing home on March 30, 1973, and was buried in the cemetery of Pohick Episcopal Church, in Fairfax County, where her parents and second husband were also interred.

Time Line

  • June 14, 1888 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip is born, probably at Mason Neck, Fairfax County, to William Walter Haislip and Alice Ellen Simmons Haislip.
  • July 1908 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip is arrested in Washington, D.C., for shooting an African American youth in the knee. The shooting is later ruled to have been accidental.
  • 1910 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip is employed as a manicurist in New York City.
  • August 15, 1913 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip marries Charles F. Smith in Alexandria. In 1921 they will purchase a house in Arlington County.
  • June 1919 - The United States Congress passes the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
  • 1923 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith becomes a charter member of the Organized Women Voters of Arlington County.
  • 1923 - Following a case in which a young girl had to submit to a physical examination before an all-male board, the Organized Women Voters seek assurances from the candidates for Arlington County sheriff that the victor will appoint a woman deputy, recommending Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith for the job.
  • July 1924 - By this time, Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith has made her first criminal arrest as deputy sheriff of Arlington County.
  • December 1927 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith is reappointed deputy sheriff of Arlington County after an attempt earlier that year to remove her from office.
  • 1930 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith helps lead the Organized Women Voters of Arlington County's campaign for the construction of a new jail.
  • January 1936 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith and Charles F. Smith separate after almost twenty-three years of marriage.
  • November 19, 1938 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith and Charles F. Smith divorce.
  • March 1942 - By this time, Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith has married Edward Greenwood Duncan, an Arlington police officer seventeen years her junior.
  • September 4, 1943 - Edward Greenwood Duncan dies after a long illness.
  • 1944 - By this year, Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith Duncan has ceased to serve as deputy sheriff in Arlington.
  • 1965 - The Organized Women Voters of Arlington County names Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith Duncan its Woman of the Year for Duncan's many contributions to the Arlington community.
  • March 30, 1973 - Pauline Adelaide Haislip Smith Duncan dies at an Alexandria nursing home. She is buried in the cemetery of Pohick Episcopal Church, in Fairfax County.
Further Reading
Chittenden, Cecil. Arlington: A New Frontier. New York: Hobson Book Press, 1946.
Kierner, Cynthia A., Jennifer R. Loux, and Megan Taylor Shockley. Changing History: Virginia Women Through Four Centuries. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2013.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    McCoy, D., & Collins, S. J., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Pauline Adelaide Haislip Duncan (1888–1973). (2013, October 19). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Duncan_Pauline_Adelaide_Haislip_1888-1973.

  • MLA Citation:

    McCoy, Dawn, Sara J. Collins and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Pauline Adelaide Haislip Duncan (1888–1973)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 19 Oct. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: November 1, 2012 | Last modified: October 19, 2013


Contributed by Dawn McCoy, Sara J. Collins, and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography