Joanne Pierce Misko grew up in Niagara Falls, New York, the daughter and sister of police officers. Out of college, Pierce entered the convent of the Sisters of Mercy in Buffalo, New York, where she taught middle and high school students for 10 years until she left the convent to become one of the first women special agents for the FBI.
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had a firm rule: only men could be special agents in the FBI. But that rule changed shortly after his death in May 1972, paving the way for the first female modern Special Agents. Misko joined the FBI as a researcher at the Training Academy in 1970, but when Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray opened the special agent position to females in 1972, Misko’s supervisor asked if she had any interest in applying. “Absolutely, I would be interested,” Misko said. The head of the Training Division met with Misko to explain what it would be like and asked her if she was absolutely sure about it.