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Notable Natives of Washington County, Indiana
 
Emma Christy-Baker
1865
 
 
By Jeremy L. Elliott
Washington County Historian
 
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Emma Christy was born in Salem, on February 10, 1865, to William W. and Hester Christy.  William’s grandfather, Richard Christy, migrated to Washington County, with his wife and four children in 1820, from the Newberry District, South Carolina.  William’s father, Drayton, was one of these four kids, a toddler of two years.  
Growing up in the Hay’s Addition of Salem, Drayton met and married, Eliza Bishop, who was one year his senior, on October 11, 1838, in the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church, then on High Street.  Drayton and Eliza Christy would have seven children in Salem, between the years of 1839 and 1856, with William’s birth occurring in 1843.  Drayton worked primarily as a hired laborer to support his family and was employed for a while as a servant, in the home of legendary Hoosier Schoolmaster, John I. Morrison.
 
William W. and Hester, whose parents are unknown, were presumably married sometime between 1862 and 1864, in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, during some of the most tumultuous times to be a black person, residing in our county.  The spring of 1865, following the birth of their daughter, Emma, the young family joined a larger group of Christy’s, led by patriarch, Drayton, as they migrated north to Indianapolis, due to the constant fear over the safety of their family members from the racial violence occurring throughout the county.  Whether it is coincidence or an influencing factor is uncertain, but this was the same year John I. Morrison became the Indiana State Treasurer and he and his family moved to Indianapolis.
 
Once in Indianapolis, William owned a successful laundry service on Blake Street and was the Treasurer of the Fidelity Savings and Loan.  The family became members of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the children, including Emma, spent their childhoods attending Indianapolis Public School #17 and later, graduated from Shortridge High School.  Emma worked and often operated the laundry business, for her father, for many years after graduating high school and became well known throughout the community.  She married David M. Baker, a barber, who was born in Tennessee, on July 9, 1889 and in January of 1892, they had a son named, John W. D. Baker, who tragically died at just seven years of age.
 
  During the years of World War 1, many jobs that were up until that time considered ‘man’ jobs, began hiring females to fill their depleted work forces and in June of 1918, Emma Christy Baker, joined Mary Mays and Clara Burnside, as the first ever, female patrol officers of the Indianapolis Police Department.  The first African-American woman hired in their history, Emma was paid the same wages, as her male counterparts.  Her primary duties were shoplifters and petty theft cases, but she and her fellow female officers, greatly raised the awareness of protecting the well-being of young women.  She rose to the rank of Detective and from 1922 to 1938, was assigned to the probation department of the Juvenile Court and became grossly involved and concerned with child welfare, even attending an Ohio Valley Regional Conference in 1930, held by the Child Welfare League of America.  During her service to the juvenile department, Emma lost her husband David, when he died in 1928.
 
After an administration change in 1938, the new police chief showed a dislike for the women officers and recanted their street patrolling positions, returning the female roles to desk work and prison matrons.  The way it would remain, until the department again hired women patrol officers, in 1968.  One year after Emma was assigned to be a matron in the jail, she retired in March of 1939, at the age of 74.  It is estimated, during her police career, she handled over 3,000 cases, most of which led to convictions and helped to improve the general welfare of countless youths.  She was also a member of numerous social organizations including; The Old Settlers Club, The Loyal Legion Club of the AME Church and the Topaz Coral Club.
 
Emma Christy Baker passed away on September 23, 1955 and was interred in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis; alongside her husband and young son, in unmarked graves.
 
 Today, Emma’s memory and legacy are held in high regard, by the numerous female African-American police officers, who have served or are serving with, the Indianapolis Police Department.  Her picture hangs today, as inspiration, in the office of a black female Merit Captain who’s on the force and Emma has been recognized during Black Heritage Month, as a pioneer woman of law enforcement. 
 
In 2003, a joint campaign started by 500 Indianapolis Public School children and the Indianapolis Police Department, headed by Officer Marilyn Gurnell, raised the funds to have an imposing headstone, containing the names of Emma, David and their son, John, placed at their burial site.  The grave site is now on the tour of Notable Women of Indianapolis, given by the cemetery.