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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

DEWALD, LOUISE - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

DEWALD, LOUISE (3 Nov. 1877-12 Oct. 1954) was, for many years, the highest-ranking woman in Cleveland's city government. She rose through the department ranks to become Commissioner of Cemeteries (1925-42), possibly the only woman cemetery commissioner in the U.S. Daughter of William and Catherine (Klump) Dewald, she was a Cleveland native and public school graduate. Dewald began with the department in 1900 at Woodland, supervised by her brother. In 1911 a high civil-service exam score placed Dewald on a classified list, from which she was picked for departmental secretary in 1912. In Mar. 1917 she was appointed supervisor of cemeteries, becoming commissioner of cemeteries in 1924. Popular with employees and the press, Dewald strove to enhance the department's self-sufficiency, promoting the nation's first municipally owned mausoleum and crematory at Highland Park in 1928.

In 1932, Mayor RAY T. MILLER†, wanting to distribute patronage, fired officeholders, including Dewald, who immediately petitioned the Ohio Supreme Court for reinstatement, which the justices unanimously granted. "Woman Upsets Democratic Machine in Court Test," announced the CLEVELAND PRESS in this vindication of municipal civil service. In June 1934, Dewald drew bipartisan criticism from the city council's finance committee for exploiting women when it discovered she employed them for $.37 1/2 per hour versus men's $.60 per hour rate. In late 1941 and early 1942, this survivor of 12 mayors was accused of embezzling over $19,000, allegedly for gambling. After restoring the funds by May 1942, she was placed on 5 years' probation for technical embezzlement.

Unmarried, Dewald died in Cleveland and was buried in Highland Park Cemetery.

Last Modified: 15 Jul 1997 02:47:58 PM

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