The Woman Deputy


By Kelli Huggins / Visitor Experience Coordinator


To Genevieve Hyde’s great frustration, people regularly pilfered fruit and vegetables from her farm in Bushnellsville.

So she devised a novel solution; she became the first woman deputy in all of Ulster County.[1].

The particulars of her story are murky, but this much is known: Hyde applied for the position of deputy, and Ulster County Sheriff Herman Wells approved and appointed her to the role in September 1926.

It’s unknown if Hyde’s duties extended beyond her own property. One report claimed that as a deputy, she would have more authority to deal with trespassers herself rather than having to wait for other officers to make the long trip to her farm. It’s also unclear how she exercised her power. Did she make arrests? Did she issue tickets? Unfortunately, there are no follow up reports. [2]

 Hyde’s role as first female deputy in Ulster County was part of a larger movement of American women claiming power. Women began entering law enforcement positions in the 1800s and many served as police matrons in larger cities, tending primarily to criminal or at-risk women and children. But after suffrage, women’s opportunities broadened. Just several months before Hyde’s deputization in 1926, Governor Al Smith appointed New York’s first female county sheriff, Clara Senecal of Cayuga County. Sheriff Senecal was appointed to succeed her husband (who had held the role until his death).[3]

 What little we know about Hyde paints her a strong, self-reliant woman. She appears in the 1925 New York State Census where she is listed as a 45-year-old single mother of a 17-year-old daughter. Being deputized gave her an agency that was new to many women and helped to open the door for other women to imagine themselves in, request, and function in, positions of power.





[1] “Shandaken Woman is Deputy Sheriff, First in County,” Cobleskill Index, September 30, 1926, 11.

[2] “Ulster Boasts of Woman Deputy,” Buffalo Times, September 26, 1926, 10.

[3] “Governor Names Woman Sheriff,” Elmira Star-Gazette, April 15, 1926, 14.