Calgary Herald

NORA PEAVOY

Police officer and a role model for all women

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When Nora Peavoy joined the police force in 1948, she wasn’t allowed to wear pants, carry handcuffs or a gun, was paid less and wasn’t allowed to drive a police car.

The fourth female to join the Calgary police force, Peavoy was described in articles written about her as a “lassie.” In more recent years she’s been described as a “role model,” “heroic,” and a “woman before her time.”

She helped achieve wage parity for women on the force, travelled Europe and South America at a time when women were disdained for travelling alone, and even pounded the nails in her own homes.

Calgary now has 275 sworn female police officers. When Peavoy started, she patrolled with just three other women — a number that stayed the same until she retired 22 years later.

Peavoy’s friends say she enjoyed her time as a constable, despite some of the frustratio­ns she felt as a woman. And she would often regale them with stories of walking the beat.

Once, after women officers were given a car, she tried to place a woman into the back seat.

“And then her hair fell off,” said Donna Fulton. Apparently this woman was really a man dressed as a woman.

“She loved to tell that story,” said Sharon Miller, one of Peavoy’s caregivers.

She had a soft spot for what she called the “working girls,” or the prostitute­s on the southeast side, her friends say. She would give them money to take the bus away from their johns, throw them baby showers, and even take them home with her so they could have a bath.

“She used to say that years later she would meet them on the street and they would remember and respect her,” said Miller.

“The message on the criminal grapevine was ‘If you go to Calgary, watch out for the lady bulls,’ ” in reference to the four female officers, says Gail Niinimaa, administra­tor of the Calgary police interpreta­tive centre.

“They were very feisty and strong women.”

Peavoy retired at the age of 50 after 22 years on the job. Her retirement was partially due to some of the discrimina­tion she said she felt during her time with the force.

In an article written March 25, 1970, she said: “We do the same work as men, but are not recognized. It’s discrimina­tion.”

Back then, male constables reached full pay after their fourth year. But the women only made what a first-year male constable was making, $144.50 a week.

She is credited with helping to achieve wage parity with the men, which Sandra Sebree said is the reason she stayed on the force as long as she did.

As soon as Peavoy quit, she headed for the open road.

“She was everywhere: Australia, Mexico, all over the U.S. She loaded her mobile home onto a freighter and travelled Europe for two years,” said Fulton. She also visited South America with another friend, a few years later.

“She would go places I’d be afraid to go today,” said Angy Lajoie, Peavoy’s friend of 36 years. “It was very unusual for a woman to travel alone back then, but she did it.” But she always took precaution­s. While in Morocco, she was stopped by a group of bandits. She pulled out her pistol from the glove compartmen­t and the bandits went running for the hills, said Sebree.

She returned to Canada and built five homes in Calgary before moving to British Columbia. She was always a perfection­ist, says Lajoie, and would rarely let other people do what she could do better.

“I remember once, she was 73, on her roof at her house on Gabriola Island, cleaning out the gutters because she didn’t trust anyone else to do it,” says Lajoie.

She returned to Calgary five years ago after a close friend died.

Peavoy, born July 15, 1919, died Feb. 9 at the age of 89 at her Colonel Belcher home. Her friends describe her as strong-willed, opinionate­d, passionate, honest, loyal and heroic.

“She was a role model,” says Fulton. “I will never meet another woman quite like her.”

 ?? Calgary Herald Archive ?? Nora Peavoy joined the police force in 1948 and wasn’t allowed to wear pants, carry a gun or even drive a police car.
Calgary Herald Archive Nora Peavoy joined the police force in 1948 and wasn’t allowed to wear pants, carry a gun or even drive a police car.
 ?? Calgary Herald Archive ?? Nora Peavoy retired after 22 years on the police force. She worked hard during that time to achieve wage parity for the female officers.
Calgary Herald Archive Nora Peavoy retired after 22 years on the police force. She worked hard during that time to achieve wage parity for the female officers.

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