In The Girls Who Fought Crime: The Untold True Story of the Country’s First Female Investigator and Her Crime Fighting Squad (Sourcebooks), retired U.S. Army Major General Mari K. Eder tells the story of Mary Foley, a police pioneer in the United States New York York City in the 1920s and 1930s.
Born Mary or “Mae” in 1886, Foley was raised by Irish and French immigrant parents in the Gas House District on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Although she married young and had children, she was always interested in a career in the police force.
But she was a multitasker in perfect completion.
“Mae balanced all aspects of her life; Police work, wife and mother, love of travel – she could do everything,” Eder tells the Post.
Foley began her NYPD training in 1923 and upon graduation joined the Masher Squad, a unit dedicated to protecting women from the unwanted attention of predatory men.
“Mae realized that a large part of police work is about mediating conflicts and solving problems in relationships. It’s about talking and listening,” says Eder.
“Even today, studies show that women policing can achieve more positive outcomes in confrontational situations — and she did.”
From catching rapists to catching smugglers, Foley eventually became a homicide detective in Queens.
“No matter where she worked, she stayed true to herself and her focus – protecting the innocent, the vulnerable, the at risk,” says Eder.
Later, while working with Manhattan District Attorney Thomas Dewey, she was instrumental in the successful sentencing of Italian-born gagster Charles “Lucky” Luciano and in uncovering the secrets of the Nazi organization German American Bund.
Despite working in a male-dominated workplace, Foley’s groundbreaking work in the police force encouraged over 2,000 women to join the NYPD.
“There were many others who served alongside Mae, but their stories have been lost in time — I wish I could find them all,” says Eder.
Even after she retired in 1941, Foley dedicated her life to policing, standing up for officers and their families, and fighting for better pay and benefits.
Meanwhile, in Queens, they celebrated Foley’s birthday on Mae Foley Day.