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How WPC Elsie broke down the police barriers.

Byline: Sarah Davies

THEY take an active part in every aspect of modern policing, from walking the beat to leading forces and coordinating international affairs.

But the attitude towards women in our police forces was not always so inclusive, with a former South Wales chief constable once claiming he was "unable to subscribe to the opinion expressed that their employment would be any advantage".

South Wales Police put together a brief history of women in the force to mark International Women's Day, highlighting the obstacles facing and achievements of female police officers since World War I. Women were allowed to participate in the police force during World War I, but often only as matrons, undertaking duties such as supervising and escorting women and children in custody.

Many were married to serving officers, and their duties could include undertaking patrols at army camps and munitions factories.

Their efforts were noted by the Baird Committee, introduced in 1920, which publicly recognised the value of policewomen and concluded they were competent enough to undertake police duties.

By 1924, around 110 women were employed in forces across the UK but the County Councils' Association wrote to the Baird Committee claiming that the employment of women was "unnecessary".

In that year, Glamorgan Chief Constable Lionel Lindsay, asked by the Standing Joint Committee to consider the benefit of employing women, said: "I have very carefully considered the question of the employment of police women in the county of Glamorgan from every possible standpoint affecting the administration of a large county police force, and I unhesitatingly declare that I am unable to subscribe to the opinion expressed that their employment would be any advantage to the county."

The outbreak of World War II allowed women to take on more responsibilities, due to heavy manpower shortages. But it wasn't until after the war, in 1948, when Glamorgan Constabulary appointed their first female police officer, WPC1 Elsie Baldwin.

She was joined, two years later, by the first female special constable, WSC1 Elizabeth Rees.

From the 1960s onwards, women's rights in the police force substantially improved. In 1969, through the formation of the South Wales constabulary, policewoman were employed in criminal investigation and traffic departments, special branch and the drug squad, as well as the uniform branch.

And in 2004, the force's first female chief constable, Barbara Wilding, was appointed. She was awarded the Queen's Policing Medal in 2008.

Inspector Nicky Flower, chair of the Female Police Association, said: "Women police officers and staff take an active part in every aspect of police life, from walking the beat to managing human resources, collaboration with other forces and leading international affairs."

South Wales Police force employs 1,274 female staff members and 792 female officers.

Let us know your memories of women in South Wales Police by e-mailing CLICK ON To see more pictures of the history of women in South Wales Police /multimedia


PC Joan Coke, of Thornhill, Cardiff, outside the city's castle in April 1960

PC Gail Cope and PC Sian Williams of the South Wales Police firearms unit on training duties in Bridgend

PC Charlotte Anderson of Barry police, pictured in May 1998
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 9, 2013
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