Patsie Edwards Sloan Martin (circa 1892-1980), Political Activist, Policewoman, Social Worker

KyWoman Suffrage Discussion

This biosketch was written by Dr. Carol Mattingly, Professor Emerita of English at the University of Louisville. For her full project on “African American Women and Suffrage in Louisville,” visit

Patsie (sometimes spelled Patsy) Edwards, born sometime around 1892, was the middle child of six children in Louisville. Her father, William Edwards, was a teamster; her mother, Katie Buckner Edwards, kept house. In 1913, Patsie Edwards married Abraham (Abe) Freeman Sloan, the son of Mary Gordon, who worked as a laundress. Abe’s stepfather, Walker Gordon, worked in a box factory. Abe worked most of his life driving cars, as a chauffeur, or at times a taxi driver. Sometime after Abe Sloan’s death in 1948, Patsie married Clifton E. Martin. The 1956 Louisville City Directory lists Martin as a laborer.

By 1920, Abe and Patsie lived next door to her parents and four of her siblings who continued to live at home. By 1930, the Sloans had six children and owned their home, worth $3,000. After her marriage to Cliff Martin, she and her new husband remained in this home. As in many of these families, the next generation pursued professional careers. Daughter Patsie S. Sloan became a teacher; the U. S. Census lists her as having five years college. The other children appear to have graduated from Kentucky State; one son studied with the H. C. Mutual Insurance Company in Baltimore. Son Abram F. Sloan, Jr. died in a plane crash in 1972 in route to visit his mother for Mother’s Day.

Sloan was very active in the community, helping with Boy Scouts and Red Cross drives. But her strongest interest seems to have been the schools, as she was involved with parent-teacher organizations for much of her life. She led the Kentucky Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers Association and was reelected president of the local PTA over many years; in the early 1940s she became president of the national organization, and in 1947, the National Parent Teacher Association honored her with a lifetime membership. The Patsie Sloan Health Cup was awarded annually to a local school in honor of her work emphasizing health.

Sloan won numerous contests, including Miss Beecher Terrace, the Industrial Mayflower Club popularity contest, and a Welch’s grape juice contest. Her children followed her example, probably with her encouragement, entering and winning a variety of contests. She was clearly a leader in the social and political community, with a great deal of coverage, both in the Leader, where she acted as reporter for a while, and in the Courier-Journal.

In 1929, Sloan became one of Louisville’s earliest African American women in the Louisville Police Department, hired as a policewoman and probation officer; she held that position until early 1938. A front page article in the Courier Journal (6 February 1938), “City’s Policewomen Fired,” announced that two white women and two Black women, Sloan and Fannie Givens, were “let go.” The women argued that their work could not be done by men. In her letter of appeal, Sloan pointed to her professional qualifications: “A graduate of Central High School and the Louisville Normal; have completed 37 semester hours University work at The Municipal College (U. of L.), including 15 semester hours in sociology, specializing in criminology, the family, social institutions, pathology and social service administration.” Her appeal continued with four paragraphs outlining her many duties, including “a special detail in police court,” to keep order inside and outside the courtroom, “previously done by two police officers”; foot patrols; searching women prisoners; “interview[ing] women and children involved in sex relation cases;” and patrols to “discourage solicitations on the streets and in public places for the purpose of prostitution and the more serious crime of traffic in women and children,” roles for which women would be uniquely sensitive.

But Safety Director Sam H. McMeekin claimed the women had no specific duties. Although he had no complaints about them, he said, they were unnecessary political payoffs and he would instead hire four strong patrol officers. Others protested, but Police Chief John M. Malley dismissed them anyway. At least one writer to the Courier-Journal protested, angrily insisting that whether rightly or wrongly arrested, “I’d just like to see one or four strong young cops lay hands on the women in my family.” He insisted that both white and Black children in the South were raised by intelligent Black women and would respond well to them if hauled into court; he called Sloan, in particular, the “refined type suited to handle young people.” And Judge Neil Watson Funk lamented the firing of “four angels of the Police Department.” Funk spoke of the hundreds of mothers who had sought out the policewomen to counsel their children, and of the policewomen’s untiring and unselfish labor, often in the “muck and grime of the slums.”

Following her dismissal from the police department, Sloan worked as a social worker in the local community, serving on the ceremonial dedication committee for College Court public housing and speaking on such subjects as fire prevention at Beecher Terrace. Because of her standing in the community, Sloan was sought in 1927, along with fellow African American policewoman, Fannie Givens, to offer public support for the building of the Ohio River bridge and a parks bond. The women also served on such anti-crime organizations as the Bureau to Prevent Crime, and Sloan was appointed to the Conference on the Status of the American Negro under the National Recovery Act with other local white and Black women of social status (such as Mary Cook Parrish and Mrs. Bruce Helm) in 1931.

As did many of Louisville’s African American suffragists, Sloan Martin remained loyal to the Republican Party and was very active politically. In 1921, she served as a delegate to the Republican Party. She held offices in a number of political organizations, helping to organize the South End Republican Club, of which she became secretary. She was named executive secretary for the Louisville Colored Republican Administration and led numerous political rallies, her speeches as chair of the Colored Women’s division for the state often broadcast on radio. She headed the women’s division in election campaigns for Charles W. Anderson, Kentucky’s first African American legislator. She worked to increase local membership in the N.A.A.C.P. and was secretary of the 5th District Citizen’s League and of the Citizen’s League of Kentucky. She was also active in women’s organizations, such as the state Association of Colored Women, serving as president of the local chapter. In 1941 and 1942, she held significant rallies for Republicans in opposition to the Democratic Party and the People’s Party, whose alderman candidates all appeared in Blackface at rallies. In 1942, the Courier-Journal reported Sloan saying:

“The Democratic Party’s policy is to talk racial equality at election time and to foster race hatred at other times.”

Sloan’s appointment as a police officer had occurred during a Republican administration, her dismissal after Democrats took charge.

Patsie Sloan Martin is buried with her second husband, Cliff Martin, her daughter Patsie and son Joseph, in Cave Hill Cemetery. Her first husband, Abe Sloan, is buried in Louisville Cemetery.


  • (Louisville) Courier-Journal: 20 October 1927; 5 September 1928; 4 May 1932; 18 November 1933; 15 March 1936; 4 December 1937; 16 January 1938; 1 February 1938; 6 February 1938; 7 February 1938;11 February 1938; 16 February 1938; 24 March 1938; 10 March, 1939; 12 May 1939; 16 October 1940; 1 November 1941; 2 November 1941; 11 April 1943; 24 September 1943; 1 March 1944; 27 September 1944; 5 November 1944; 12 March 1946; 17; August 1946 (photo); 5 October 1946; 13 October 1949; 12 November 1949; 6 May 1950; 13 May 1950; 6 May 1950; 5 October 1951;; 23 July 1966; 16 May 1972; 15 October 1980 (obituary); 20 October 1985
  • Louisville Leader: 29 October 1927; 28 April 1928; 29 September 1928; 20 October 1928; 3 November 1928; 10 November 1928; 22 September 1928; 23 February 1929; 8 December 1928; 23 February 1929; 28 November 1929; 14 June 1930; 29 November 1930; 4 November 1933; 2 December 1933; 6 January 1934; 14 April 1934; 30 June 1934; 3 November 1934; 30 March 1935; 31 August 1935; 7 December 1935; 17 September 1938; 20 May 1939; 20 November 1939; 2 November 1940; 22 November 1941; 20 December 1941; 30 March 1946; 26 July 1947; 11 September 1948.
  • Patsy Sloan, Louisville Police personnel file, Jefferson County Archives.
  • [Kansas City] Plaindealer: 10 August 1945.
  • U. S. Census: 1900-1950.