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Women Police

Margaret Damer Dawson, an anti-white slavery campaigner, and Nina Boyle, a militant suffragette journalist founded the Women Police Service in 1914.

Dawson wanted a uniformed organisation of women to deter pimps and discourage young women from entering prostitution, whilst Boyle wished to take advantage of the war situation to put women temporarily in men's places, with the expectation that their usefulness would lead to their permanent continuation after the war.

The Commissioner, Sir Edward Henry, permitted them to patrol the streets, undertaking rescue work among prostitutes, and issued them with identity cards. The police were asked to render them any necessary assistance, although Henry did not enlist their services to support the Metropolitan Police in any way. The women renamed themselves the Women Police Service (WPS), (originally they were the Women Police Volunteers) and adopted the Metropolitan Police ranks of Sergeant and Inspector.

Grantham was the first provincial force to ask the WPS to supply them with occasional policewomen, recognising them as particularly useful for dealing with women and juveniles. In 1915, Grantham swore in Mrs Edith Smith, making her the first proper policewoman in Britain with full powers of arrest.

Women Police Volunteer Service 1914

Women Police Volunteer Service 1914

Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, successive Ministers of Munitions, requested uniformed women officers from the WPS to police women munitions workers in 1915.

The WPS attracted unfavourable attention by its obtrusive policing of prostitutes, harassing the women without acting against their clients, and when Sir Edward Henry was replaced as Commissioner by Sir Nevil Macready, he refused to adopt them as Metropolitan Police aides, preferring the National Council of Women's Special Police Patrols. The Women's Special Police Patrols hat no past association with militant suffragettes, and became the nucleus of the future Women Police. The head of the Patrols, Mrs Stanley, was hostile to the WPS, believing their uniforms and use of Metropolitan Police ranks to mislead the public. Under her instigation the WPS were forced to change their name to the Women's Auxiliary Service (WAS) in 1921, and to add red flashes to their uniform, distinguishing its members from the Metropolitan Women Police Patrols.

The Baird Committee on Women Police (1920) failed to recommend the WAS play any part in policing London, and although a WAS contingent made valuable contributions to the Royal Irish Constabulary during the Troubles, they were forced to suspend their activities in 1940, and were never revived.

In November 1918, Sir Nevil Macready appointed Mrs Stanley as Superintendent of the Metropolitan Women Police Patrols. 25 women were immediately appointed, all members of the existing Special Patrols, and although they were neither sworn in or given special powers of arrest, they were directly employed by and directly under the orders of Scotland Yard, and their duties were policing.

From 1923 - 30, women police were fully attested and given limited powers of arrest. 1930 - 69, A4 Branch (Women Police) was established under a female Superintendent. In 1969 the Women's Branch was dissolved in anticipation of the Equal Pay Act, although women police were still treated as a separate section of the service. It was not until 1973 that Women Police were integrated directly into the main force.