First Female Sheriff

Mrs. William H. Thompson


The 1935 Hardin County Board of Supervisors made a historic decision when, on March 26, it unanimously voted to appoint Mrs. William H. Thompson as Hardin County Sheriff. She was the first...and only...woman to serve in this capacity. She is believed to be the first female sheriff in the state of Iowa.

She was appointed to fill the unexpired term of her husband, William H. Thompson, who died on the operating table following a "throat attack," according to reports from the time. He had served three full terms as sheriff and had begun his fourth term in January 1935. At the time of the appointment, J.E. Davidson was deputy and he remained as chief deputy after the appointment was made. Eleven applications were received for the sheriff's position. Davidson was among the candidates, but specified that he be considered only "in case it did not affect Mrs. Thompson's chance of securing the appointment." Reports of the appointment noted that Davidson said he was satisfied with the action of the board in appointing Mrs. Thompson.

According to an Eldora newspaper account of the appointment, "The excellent record made by the former sheriff, together with the fact that he had just begun serving a term to which he had been elected by the highest majority given any candidate, and the additional fact of Mrs. Thompson's familiarity with the duties at the jail and her standing with the general public, let to her being selected. While some may question the qualification of any woman for this position, the supervisors felt that with Mr. Davidson as deputy, any possible handicap would be overcome and the county would be guaranteed an efficient administration of the duties of the office in every particular."

Under the agreement with Mrs. Thompson, had it been necessary to employ a man to assist Davidson for either part- or full-time, she agreed to bear the expense.