Dorothy Bergquist: Trailblazer With a Badge and a Gun

By Susan Morse

Hampton Union, Tuesday. November 11, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Dorothy Bergquist

Dorothy Bergquist, the state's first uniformed female police officer, died Wednesday, Nov. 5.

Bergquist, a longtime North Hampton resident, was 83. She started working for the Hampton Police Department in 1968, arriving with a personality that made her more than capable of keeping up in what was then a "man's world," according to those many who knew her. She worked inside the station, serving as secretary to five police chiefs during her 27-year career.

"She was a real pistol," said her son, Bob Bergquist, of North Hampton. "She was a trailblazer. She blazed a trail for women in police work." Her actual pistol was carried in her purse, Bergquist said. That was the style of the day, according to former Hampton Police Chief Paul Leavitt, who hired Bergquist. Female officers had a special purse, instead of a belt holster that had a slot for a handgun and handcuffs.

"At that time, woman in law enforcement were few and far between," said Leavitt, who now lives in Waterville Valley. "I hired her as a secretary. Dot was a very skilled and talented person. There was a mutual decision to have her work in uniform. She went through training. More often than not, she helped around the station. In the summer, the beach was busy. We could have 100 or more people arrested for various crimes. She was in uniform, carried a firearm."

Those were the years of the Hampton Beach riots, though Bergquist arrived after the major demonstrations, Leavitt said.

"She was a very loyal, honest individual and bright as a new penny," he said.

That his mother was the first certified female police officer in the state "was a story told from day one," said Bergquist, though he has no proof of that accomplishment.

"There's no plaque commemorating that fact," he said.

The Police Standards and Training Council in Concord wasn't established until 1971 and would have no record of Bergquist's first-in-the-state status, according to a representative of the state agency.

Former Hampton Police chief Robert Mark, though, confirmed Bergquist was the state's first certified female officer.

"She was a wonderful person," said Mark, who is now working in Florida. "She maintained the office. She was a very efficient individual, she wore a badge. She was a real lady, very highly intelligent. She had the respect of all of the police officers. No one messed with her."

Retired sergeant John Nickerson said "Dottie Bergquist was one of the greatest people we had."

"She ended up multi-tasking," he said. "She dispatched, she was the chief's secretary, she sent out insurance reports, accident reports. It took us a long time to convince her to leave for lunch and call somebody in. She was like a mother hen with all the boys out there."

Bergquist was 43 when, with her two sons grown and her husband William retired from the Air Force, she decided she wanted a job outside the home.

"I think she answered an ad in the Hampton Union," said Bob Bergquist. "Knowing mom, she probably said, 'That looks like fun, I'll do that.'"

Her only training up to that point was from her job as a teenager working in a military supply depot during World War II in her hometown of Austin, Texas. Also, as an avid hunter, "she could out shoot most men," said her son.

"She was a totally, totally dedicated cop," Bergquist said. "She brought her work home every night. She'd work to three or four in the morning, doing the budgets. She never put in for overtime."

Bergquist retired in 1995 at age 70. She and Detective Art Wardle, who retired the same year, shared a retirement party at the Ashworth by the Sea Hotel.

Dottie was already at the station when he came onboard in 1974, he said. "She wasn't any wallflower by any means, she always spoke her mind and you always knew where you stood with her," Wardle said. "She never went after the sergeant's position, she was certainly qualified for it. She liked doing what she was doing. She was loyal beyond description. I remember her Texas accent, I could barely understand her at first." Dottie and her husband moved to North Hampton in 1958 when William was transferred to Pease Air Force Base. They raised two sons.

"As a teenager, it was kind of a pain in the (butt) having a cop for a mom," said Bergquist, 58, owner of the environmental marketing and sales company, Lakefront Enterprises, Inc.

Bergquist had been his mother's caretaker. His brother was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1985; his father died a year later.

Bergquist was at his mother's side in the hospital, where she told him, he said, "Bob, you look like (crap), go home and get some sleep."

She was an avid golfer and often took him with her, he said, where she used the game to teach him about life.

"Mom was a very humble woman," Bergquist said. "I don't think she viewed herself as a path breaker or making history. I think when she found out (she was the first), she was proud. We were all proud of her."

Dorothy Bergquist will be buried Tuesday in the North Hampton cemetery. No church service or calling hours are scheduled.

Honor Bergquist's Trailblazing Story

An Editorial

Hampton Union, Friday, November 14, 2008

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Police Department: Spring of 1971; 1st row, left to right: 1. Dorothy Berquist, 2. Robert McLaughlin, 3. Thomas Krajewski, 4. Don Barnard, 5. Chief Clayton Bousquin, 6. William Ritchie, 7. Robert E. Mark, 8. James Tuttle; 2nd row, left to right: 1. Detective Norman Brown, 2. Sgt. John Nickerson, 3. Raymond Smith, 4. Sgt. Joseph MacDonald - (deceased), 5. Thomas Mallory - (deceased), 6. Raymond Namie, 7. Lt. Charles Garland, 8. Detective Paul Cronin.

Dorothy Bergquist's passing last week revealed a story of a local trailblazer many of us were simply not aware of. And what a story hers is.

Bergquist, who died Nov. 5 at age 83, was the state's first uniformed female police officer. Today there are many women serving as police officers and many others serving as U.S. soldiers. These gains by women remain somewhere between rare and commonplace, but for sure women in fields traditionally dominated by men would not be there today if someone had not broken through first.

Dorothy Bergquist is like Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court or Hattie Wyatt Caraway, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. We are honored to have had this trailblazer living in our community and only regret not having told and cherished her story more during her life.

Bergquist, a longtime North Hampton resident, donned the uniform of the Hampton Police Department in 1968. If police work remains a male-dominated profession today, think about it back then. Think about Bergquist going through the police training program and then putting on that uniform and walking into the police station 40 years ago.

We have seen issues between the genders flare up in our area police departments over the past five and 10 years. Breaking the gender barrier and getting the job was one battle, but surely the fight for acceptance continued once she put the uniform on with her badge and gun.

Actually, the fact Bergquist was made to carry her gun in a special police-issued purse instead of the typical holster suggested equal footing didn't come automatically, or maybe ever for her.

Bergquist worked inside the station and as secretary to five police chiefs in her 27-year career. But she was a police officer just the same, and someday, as assuredly as Dorothy Bergquist broke the gender barrier herself, there will be a female police chief of a town in our community.

Bergquist's son, Bob Bergquist, joked that it was tough having a police officer as a mom when he was a teenager. That's easy to imagine being true. But Bob Bergquist is as proud of his mother as anyone, or even more so. "She was a real pistol," he said. "She was a trailblazer. She blazed a trail for women in police work."

There is no plaque honoring Bergquist for her contribution to police work and women. There should be one, actually more than one. There should be one at the Hampton Police Department and there should be one at the Police Standards and Training Council in Concord. That way, the legacy of Dorothy Bergquist is sure to serve as a motivation to all. Maybe all of the female police officers in the state know of Dorothy. But maybe they don't and that would be a shame.

The fact that Dorothy Bergquist became the state's first uniformed officer tells a big part of her story. But, also consider how she raised her children and then sought a career at age 43, and worked until age 70. Think about how she worked in a military supply depot during World War II in her hometown of Austin, Texas. As an avid hunter, "she could out shoot most men," Bob Bergquist said of his mom.

What a life Dorothy lived. What a story hers is to tell. What an example she provides for other women and girls.