100 years of female police officers - celebrating the early pioneers

100 years ago, back in 1917, the first two female police officers were appointed in the West Midlands.

Evelyn Miles and Rebecca Lipscombe, both lock-up matrons in the Birmingham City Police, became the first policewomen on the 30th April after much campaigning by women’s groups and petitioning of the Watch Committee during the early part of the First World War.

Evelyn was 54 years of age and Rebecca almost 61 when they became policewomen! They had no powers of arrest and it wasn't until the start of June that they actually went out on patrol.

The early work of the Women Police (and the Lady Enquiry Officer - a post established in 1919 in the CID) revolved around dealing with crimes involving women and children, helping women to find work and lodgings, supporting unmarried pregnant women and trying to keep young women on the straight and narrow.

In 1918 Evelyn went on to be promoted to sergeant whilst Rebecca reverted back to being a lock-up matron at the central lock-up. By this point she was in charge of three policewomen, with a further six joining by February 1919.

It is through research undertaken for the book that the unidentified women in the above picture have been named. The lady standing on the left is Lizzie May Peers, who joined in September 1918, leaving by December 1919, and it is believed the lady sitting in front of her is Mary Dwelly - who was with the department from September 1917 to April 1919. We believe the woman standing on the right is Malenda Shawe, who had a slightly longer police career than the other two - from October 1917 to August 1922.

To commemorate the centenary, and the achievements of women in policing over the last 100 years, Corinne Brazier and Steve Rice (volunteers with the West Midlands Police Museum) have written a book to share the stories of the pioneer policewomen who paved the way for many to follow. Titled 'A Fair Cop' it is being sold for £9.99 to raise money for local women's charities (Anawim, Black Country Women's Aid and Coventry Haven). You can purchase a copy from the reception of West Midlands Police HQ in Lloyd House or by contacting the museum.

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