09 March 2021

SLC's Meter Maids


Clarice Holt and Molly Langston 1954, from UDSH. 

In 1954 the term “Meter Maid” was coined when SLC replaced male police officers with female parking meter readers.

The SLC police department was understaffed and in 1954 SLC decided to replace male police officers in the traffic division tasked with parking enforcement with female parking meter readers.

This idea was originally proposed by the Utah Taxpayers Association and had been adopted in a few other cities within the US in previous years (Charlotte NC in 1950; Kansas City MO in 1951; and Asheville NC in 1953).

This was seen as a cost saving move because the City could pay female workers less money and it would relieve regular officers for other police work. Immediate protest was lodged by Mr. Arnold Schryber who insisted that older men should be given the jobs.

SLC hired 12 women for a 30-day trial period at a salary of $165 ($1,605 today). Initially the women were hired as special police officers but after the resounding success of the trial period, and the increase in parking fee revenue the City received, they were given a monthly salary of $280 ($2,723 today) and transferred to civil service. Mrs. Clarice Holt, one of 3 female police officers already with the SLCPD, was appointed supervisor of the new organization.

The SLC newspapers immediately coined new terms to describe the women and their jobs: “Petticoat Patrol” “Femme Patrol” “Meter Enforcement Women” “Meter Mollies” and of course “Meter Maid.”

The first appearance of the term “Meter Maid” that I could find in a nationwide historical newspaper search was Dan Valentines’ column “Nothing Serious” in the July 20 1954 edition of the Salt Lake Tribune where he snidely wrote “Salt Lake’s new ‘Meter Maids’- the gals…who don’t let any grass grow under their petite feet when it comes to doling out parking tickets.”

The term “Meter Maid” stuck and within a couple years had spread across the US; it was even used in The Beatles’ song “Lovely Rita” in 1967.

The SLC Meter Maids seemed to embrace the term and Clarice Holt proudly included it in her 1999 obituary.

Now, gender-neutral terms are primarily used.

Sources: SL Trib 1954-01-11; SL Trib 1954-06-18; Des News 1954-07-06; SL Trib 1954-07-20; Des News 1954-07-26

Zola Henroid and Nelda Van Vleet, from SL Trib 1954-07-13

Minnie Langston, from Des News 1955-05-23

Virginia Hawkes and Jessie Turner, from SL Trib 1957-05-11

Zola Henroid, from Des News 1965-07-15

Proliferation of "Meter Maid” as a term, 1954-1956

The use of the term "Meter Maid" through time

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