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Barbara Coffin papers

Identifier: IWA0045

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Scope and Contents

The Barbara Coffin papers date from 1944 to 2006 and measure 12 linear inches. The bulk of the records relate to the lawsuit that Coffin filed along with fellow policewoman Karlene Piper against the city of Waterloo. These documents include exhibits presented by Coffin and Piper's attorney as well as transcripts of the testimony given by witnesses before the Civil Service Commission of Waterloo. Coffin and Piper wanted their civil service status to begin with their start date as city hostesses rather than their start date as policewomen because the start date affected their seniority, pay, and retirement eligibility dates. As a result of the lawsuit, the city of Waterloo agreed to backdate their start date to the date they applied and took the test to be policewomen, but not to the date they were hired as city hostesses. The miscellaneous folder contains Roxanne Conlin's closing arguments before the Civil Service Commission, the settlement agreement reached in district court, and the lawyer fee agreement.

The biographical information consists of certificates Coffin received for additional training relating to police work and a newspaper article on her work with ceramics after her retirement. The City hostess folder contains three images of Barbara Brucher in her city hostess uniform: two of Brucher and her fellow hostesses in their 'Hot Pink' summer uniforms from 1967, and one of Brucher writing tickets in a parking lot in 1968. The policewoman folder contains newspaper clippings which chronicle significant events in Coffin's career as a Waterloo police officer: assisting in the apprehension of James Michael 'T-bone' Taylor, filing a discrimination suit against the city of Waterloo, giving talks on safety to the community, and retiring in 1996. The folder also contains letters Coffin wrote to citizens commending them for speaking out when they saw a crime being committed.

Artifacts include the trophy Coffin (at the time Barbara Rogers) won for 2nd place in the women's class of a police sharp shooting contest. Barbara Coffin's police shirt, tailored at the waist to fit a woman, is navy blue with a patch on either sleeve that reads 'Waterloo Police and Vigilance.' Photographs of Coffin and coworkers as city hostesses and policewomen have been printed from two CD-ROMs, which are also part of the collection. The CD-ROMs can only be opened and printed on a Macintosh.


  • Creation: 1944-2006


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been retained by the donor.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Barbara Jane Rinker Coffin, city hostess and police officer, was born in 1941 in Waterloo, Iowa to Ruth Davisson and Henry J. Rinker. In 1967, she was hired as a city hostess for Waterloo, Iowa. At that time, there were no female police officers in Waterloo, but women could be city hostesses, a position with duties that included writing parking tickets, filing mug shots, and assisting in transferring female witnesses and suspects to Des Moines, Iowa for polygraph tests. In an oral history interview, Coffin described her job this way: “The city of Waterloo wanted attractive females to wear, not just a uniform, but nice clothes and assist the public along with writing parking tickets.” City hostesses wore uniforms with miniskirts in shades like hot pink and turquoise and posed for photographs advertising the City. In 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity act barred discrimination in hiring based on sex. Confident that she could do the job of a police officer and knowing that it would double her current salary, Coffin took the test, interviewed, and became Waterloo, Iowa’s first sworn female police officer in 1973. Initially, she struggled against sexual harassment and sexist attitudes. She waited much longer than her male colleagues to be assigned a gun. For over a year, she was kept on dispatch and prevented from working on street patrol after male officers resisted riding with her. In 1985, Coffin and fellow officer Karlene Piper filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination by the City of Waterloo after discovering that when they were hired as police officers, they lost the seniority which they had earned as city hostesses. This would affect their retirement benefits. In a partial victory, the City of Waterloo agreed to back date their seniority to when they applied to be officers, but not to when they were hired as city hostesses. Overall, Coffin lost just over 5 years of accrued seniority. Coffin retired from the Waterloo Police Department in 1996 after twenty-three years as an officer.


12.00 linear inches

Artifacts in Box 4; Photographs in Box 3 and map case boxes

Language of Materials



City hostess and policewoman from Waterloo, Iowa.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no.1073) were donated by Barbara Coffin in 2004 and succeeding years.

Related Materials

Oral Histories of Iowa Policewomen

This collection includes interviews with Barbara Coffin and Karlene Piper.

Fiona McDougall, 2006; Sharon M. Lake, 2007. [CoffinBarbara.doc]
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)