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Two Years Later, Still the Only Woman

By Fred Hiatt

In the fall of 1974 the Harvard University Police Department hired its first female officer.

Two years later Joan White is still the only woman on the 75-person force.

David L. Gorski, chief of the University police this week declined to discuss the difficulties of a 74-to-one ratio, saying, "Problems like that would be perceived more by her than by the organization."

White agreed this week that there are "some problems," but was reluctant at first to discuss them. "I have other problems, like being late too often," she said.

But later White said she realized she was "a token," adding that she had "gone all the way to the top" to complain that no other women had been hired.

"They just told me, 'Well, you should have known it would be tough, Joan,'" White recalled. "But it's not a question of how tough it is for me, it's a question of balance."

Gorski said he foresees no job openings "on the horizon."

Before joining the Harvard force, White spent two years as second mate of a sport fishing boat, ran a federally-funded community action program, and worked at a Boston radio station.

She still hosts a half-hour radio program each week, "My People" on WWEL.

White said the elitism of Harvard does not upset her, because she is "very used to the elitist process." She grew up, she said, in the home of a wealthy Philadelphian who summered in Maine: "My mother worked at the honorable profession of providing vittles for those with a lot of cash."

Boston University's police force has one woman on its 24-member force, while MIT's ratio is two women out of 41.

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