The First Female Prison Guards In The US Were In Delaware

In 2014 The State of Delaware Public Archives unveiled a historical marker commemorating the first female prison guards in the United States at New Castle County’s Greenbank Park, near the site where they served and made women’s history, Delaware history, and American history.

The guards were nicknamed “Annie Oakleys” for their excellent shooting ability with machine guns and rifles. They began working for the prison in the lower Red Clay Valley in 1943 due to the shortage of male guards that resulted from World War II.

The historical marker, “The Annie Oakleys: First Female Prison Guards in the United States”, notes that the New Castle County Workhouse at Greenbank was the first penal institution in the U.S.A. to employ armed female guards.

At the dedication of the marker, historical researcher Bill Salerno said his research on the NCC Workhouse took him to the Wilmington Library, where he found several articles and learned of the first 11 women who worked as guards. Upon learning of his project, Harvey Banning Sr. then contacted Mr. Salerno and shared photos of his mother and aunt holding guns.

New Castle County workhouse Greenbank Warden Elwood Wilson - Delaware Archives

The New Castle County Workhouse jailed prisoners for seventy years from 1901 to 1971.  All that remains of the prison is a single guard tower located near the Capitol Little League baseball fields at Newport Gap Pike and Kirkwood Highway.

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First State Update's Delaware editorial team covers New Castle County, Kent County and Sussex County breaking news, political news, and general news stories. We bring the reader the latest news from the Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Rehoboth Beach and all point in between. If you have news to share, email us at

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