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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 860

Papers of Lotta Caldwell, 1856-1978 (inclusive), 1930-1973 (bulk)


Papers of one of the first Massachusetts State policewoman Lotta Caldwell.


  • 1856-1978
  • Majority of material found within 1930-1973

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Lotta Caldwell is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


2.09 linear feet ((5 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 4 photograph folders)
The Lotta Caldwell papers include professional and personal diaries, daily reports, personal correspondence, clippings, vital records, a will, funeral, and probate papers, photographs, books, awards, certificates, and an address book. The bulk of the material consists of her professional and personal diaries, which document the period from 1930 to 1952.

Caldwell's work as a state policewoman is documented by casebooks that span from 1930 to 1938, daily reports from 1930; clippings regarding her first year as a state policewoman; awards noting her accomplishment as one of the first state policewoman; and books and pamphlets she collected about crime investigation. The bulk of the material consists of her casebooks, many of which were written in commercial titles titled "The Massachusetts Lawyer's Diary." The casebooks offer detailed records of her daily interactions and notes on some of her cases. They provide insight into her work life and routines as a police officer. However, the daily reports provide more in-depth information on the cases she worked on. These casebooks and daily reports capture the rhythms of Caldwell's work; provide insight into the social mores and what was considered criminal for women and children during this period; and offer commentary on the people she interacted with on her cases. For example, there are many references to investigations of drunkenness, pregnancies of unmarried women, and relationships with men. The 1930 casebook includes news articles regarding her appointment to the force and speaking engagements she participated in during her first year on the force. The 1930, 1931, and 1938 casebooks have large sections of the pages ripped from the cover.

Her personal diaries make up another significant portion of this collection. Caldwell wrote in small "Daily Reminder" diaries from 1940 to 1952. Caldwell wrote nearly every day and the diaries serve as a concise record of Caldwell's daily life as well as noting major events like the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the eruption of Mauna Lao, Victory Day in Europe, and the surrender of Japan. They include entries regarding her cross country travels and her moves to and from various places in the United States. She tracked her health and often underlined in red particular pain and discomfort and would irregularly note the medications she took. Beginning in 1945, Caldwell would infrequently transliterate, in effect encoding, lines of her diary into Greek. In the back of each of these diaries, Caldwell tracked and catalogued incoming and outgoing mail, doctors' visits, gifts received and given, and also unusual names she came across in Hawaii. The photographs in the collection complement these diaries as they capture life in Hawaii during the war. These images are a mix of personal photographs and photographs bought at tourist sites. These images include native Hawaiians, civilians and officers in tourist locations and at home. They also include landscapes of various areas in Hawaii and show the military presence on the island.

Biographical material includes Caldwell's vital records which cover her birth, marriage, divorce, and death. Also included are her will, certificates from her work as an educator and in the police force, and clippings that provide evidence of Lotta Caldwell's early life. The clippings discuss her suicide attempt, forced hospital stay, and divorce. Some correspondence exists to and from Caldwell; however, the bulk of the correspondence relates to the resolution of claims and dispersal of her property after her death. Donald E. Currier, a surgeon general for the state of Massachusetts, worked with Caldwell on her cases and had seen Caldwell as a patient when she was hurt in the hurricane. They stayed in contact after her retirement from the police force and it appears she corresponded with him over the years. Upon Caldwell's death, he was named her executor and sole inheritor in her will. William Currier, the son of Dr. Currier, helped administer and then inherited the collection upon his father's death. This legal and financial correspondence gives some insight into the final years of Caldwell's life in Florida. This series is arranged alphabetically. Photographs are listed at the end of the inventory and arranged alphabetically. Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.


A schoolteacher and one of the first women to serve as a state policewoman in the United States, Lotta Hewett Caldwell was born on October 26, 1882, in Brockton, Massachusetts. Born to Olive Anne Jaques and Warren H. Caldwell, a photographer in Brighton, Massachusetts, she had one brother, Warren E. Caldwell. She may have attended Wellesley College, and by 1906 was an assistant teacher in the Quincy public schools. She married Harry E. Lindblath, a bookbinder and publisher, on July 13, 1907. Caldwell attempted suicide in 1913 and later filed for divorce in 1916 citing "utter desertion," and reverted to her maiden name. Caldwell taught in the public schools of Medford and Somerville, Massachusetts, starting in 1916. In 1923, she began to work for the Massachusetts State Department of Public Welfare. In 1930, Massachusetts became the first state to appoint women to the state police, and Lotta Caldwell and Mary Ramsdell were the first women to serve. They did not wear uniforms nor could they visit a crime scene unless accompanied by a male. Caldwell covered the southern and eastern part of the state while Ramsdell covered the western and central. They focused on crimes related to women and girls, such as those crimes involving rape and juvenile delinquency. Caldwell was 48 when she began working as a state policewoman and remained on the force for ten years. In 1938, she was badly injured during a hurricane while finishing an investigation. She remained on the force for another two years but retired from the police force in 1940 because of the injuries she sustained. Caldwell traveled across the country by car and took a ship from San Francisco to Honolulu on October 16, 1941. She began working as a civilian in the Army of Honolulu after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and remained in Honolulu until 1945. It appears she may have worked in the censorship office in Honolulu. After World War II, she returned to California and then traveled back to Massachusetts in 1949 where she worked a variety of jobs. Lotta Caldwell moved to Florida in 1954 and died in Tampa, Florida on July 26, 1973, at the age of ninety-one.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2004-M60

The papers of Lotta H. Caldwell were given to the Schlesinger Library in June 2004 by Willliam Currier.

Processing Information

Processed: April 2016

By: Rose Oliveira with assistance from Jenny Gotwals and Dan Bullman.
Link to catalog
Caldwell, Lotta, 1882-1973. Papers of Lotta Caldwell, 1856-1978 (inclusive), 1930-1973 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future.

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