Updated: Mar 17
To celebrate International Women's Day this year we have chosen to tell the story of one of our pioneer policewomen from Wolverhampton.
Wolverhampton were not the first force in the West Midlands to recruit women, however, they were the first to recruit female special constables during the Great War (other forces, including Birmingham, did not recruit female specials until 1949).
The first serving Wolverhampton Borough female Police officers was Hannah Esther Bronwen Evans, who joined the Police service as a female enquiry officer, in the Wolverhampton CID on the 5th August 1937 at age 24. During her time in the force she also received commendations for her work towards arrests of abortionists and one detection of larceny. Evans also completed three months detective training in Digbeth on joining the police.
For the second part this article will focus on Lilian Davies, a relation to a current, serving West Midlands Police officer. We have quite a few documents on Lilian’s service within Wolverhampton Borough Police in the form of newspaper articles and anecdotes from Lilian herself. However, surprisingly her record is missing from the records at the museum and we would not have known about her, had her relatives not shared her story.
Lilian joined the police around 1945, aged 27, because she thought the career was 'one of the finest'. During her police service Lilian received a King’s Commendation for her bravery when attempting to arrest a criminal. It is believed that Lillian approached the scene alone and while off duty to challenge the two men. One of them tried to get away, but Lillian made him produce an identity card. Once he had handed it to her, the man attacked her, took back the card and ran away. Bravely, Lillian ran to the nearest telephone and gave details to a police car that arrived. She gave significant detail from the identity card which ultimately lead to the man being traced and arrested. She wrote of the incident 'I was the first policewoman on this side of Watford to be decorated by the King'.
Lilian also played a special role in driving Prime Minister Winston Churchil around the town when he visited Wolverhampton.
We have other reports about the jobs that Lilian attended such as details of the cases she investigated and delivered evidence at court for. In 1949 it was reported that four policewomen in Wolverhampton including Lilian delivered a total of 2,205 hours of street patrols. However, the work of a policewoman was far more than that, for in that year alone they dealt with 144 inquiries about missing persons, took 366 statements and attended to 84 women in the cells. The job of a policewoman was to not only work amongst those of the same sex, but to also keep an eye on juveniles of which in this one year they looked after 77. Furthermore, between them these four women helped in 60 cases of tracing relatives and friends of women in need of their help. As well as assisting in 64 cases of sexual assault.
Police women such as Lilian Davies and Hannah Evans revolutionised the police force and paved the way for those who followed.
Lilian is shown in the first two images below and Hannah is on the right.
To read more about our pioneer policewomen, why not visit our online shop and order a copy of A Fair Cop - celebrating 100 years of policewomen in the West Midlands - only £9.99 and all profit goes to local women's charities.