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Women Police Service
The Women Police Service (WPS), founded in 1914 by Margaret Damer Dawson and journalist Nina Boyle, was a forerunner of the women police introduced into the Police service, and was originally called the Women Police Volunteers and later the Women's Auxiliary Service.
Margaret Damer Dawson was a wealthy philanthropist and campaigner on women's issues. She wanted a uniformed organisation to deter women from becoming prostitutes, and used the opportunity of the First World War to develop a foothold in police work which could be extended when peace came. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Edward Henry, issued them with identity cards and asked police officers to assist them, and they were also used outside London. In Grantham, for instance, Mrs Edith Smith was attested as a police officer and thereby became the first woman to hold the police officer's powers of arrest. The WPS was also used to assist the policing of female munition workers where a woman's touch should have been more effective.
Nina Boyle was a militant suffragette speaker and journalist who resigned in 1915 after learning that Mary Allen, the original WPS member sent to Grantham, had been used to impose a curfew on women to protect the morals of servicemen stationed nearby.
Miss Damer Dawson, using the title of Commandant, instituted training for women in giving evidence at court and introduced motorcycles and sidecars for transporting senior staff when the male equivalents were sometimes using pony and trap, but the overt methods of policing of prostitutes and young women, and the suffragette connections, did not always enjoy support from those in authority. Sir Neil Macready, the Commissioner who replaced Sir Edward Henry, preferred to work with Sophia Stanley, who was hostile to the WPS.
An early photograph ( c 1919) of Margaret Damer Dawson (centre), with (l to r) Chief Insp. D Meeson Coates, Miss St John Partridge, Chief Supt M S Allen and B Goldingham, the Principal of the Clerical Department.
The Baird Committee on Women Police in 1920 did not support the Women's Auxiliary Service and Mary Damer Dawson died shortly afterwards. The new Commandant, Mary Allen, became increasingly eccentric, and her apparent support for Hitler and Goering led to questions about whether she should be interned in 1940. The organisation was suspended for WWII and never revived.
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