Who was the first Metropoli­tan Po­lice­woman?

History Revealed - - Q & A -

The Metropoli­tan Po­lice of London may have been formed in 1829, but it would take an­other 90 years be­fore it had its first fe­male peeler or bobby. The cat­a­lyst, much like with suf­frage, was World War I. Since men were away fight­ing, women went into the work­place and took on tra­di­tion­ally male roles, in­clud­ing in law and or­der.

Vol­un­teer polic­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions such as the Women’s Po­lice Ser­vice were set up and, in 1915, Edith Smith be­came the first of­fi­cer in Bri­tain as she pa­trolled Gran­tham. In fact, sev­eral towns and cities had women on the beat be­fore London. The prospect of a woman in the Met was still mak­ing of­fi­cers laugh in 1916, with one sim­ply say­ing, “Not even if the war lasts 50 years.”

That of­fi­cer was wrong. In 1919, the Metropoli­tan Po­lice Women Pa­trols be­gan, led by one of the most com­mit­ted volunteers, Sofia Stan­ley. Com­mis­sioner Sir Nevil Macready was all in favour of fe­male con­sta­bles, al­though he ad­mit­ted he didn’t want “vine­gary spin­sters” or “blighted mid­dle-aged fa­nat­ics” fill­ing the ranks.

And there were lim­i­ta­tions: most no­tably that they didn’t have the power of ar­rest un­til 1922. Upon wit­ness­ing a crime, they had to fetch a male col­league.

AR­REST­ING DE­VEL­OP­MENTS It was an un­fair cop, but women PCs lacked pow­ers of ar­rest un­til 1922

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