Women's paid employment since the Renaissance

{See also Professions}

{See also Female sailors}

{See also Railwaywomen}

{See also Employment}

{See also Society for the Employment of Women}


by D.O.G. Peto, Director of the Bristol Training School for Women Patrols and Police

The increase in the employment of Policewoman and Paid Patrols during the last three years is remarkable. The following table gives approximately the position at the present time:

Policewomen in
Borough Forces
Towns with
Paid Patrols
(Uniformed Police)
(Enquiry Officers)

(Several other towns)
(Many paid Patrol-
Leaders in all parts)
(a) Under Explosives
Dept. of the Ministry
of Munitions
(b) Under Admiralty
(c)Under Controlled

Such a list as the above, whilst encouraging to women wishing to make Police Work their profession, is also a little bewildering; it prompts them to enquire which of the various classes set forth are the most permanent, and in which they will find the widest scope for their own individuality.

No woman taking up any branch of this work need lack an opportunity of proving her mettle, nor, when she has proved it, will she fail to find in her work both a livelihood and a career. The main difference between the various classes is that whereas the work of women in Borough Forces (Classes 1 and 2) is likely to be established on much the same basis in every town to which it spreads, and will there unfold but slowly to its full possibilities, the work of women as Paid Patrols (Class 3) is more experimental, and consequently more subject to sudden expansions and transitions. As regards women in Railway Forces (Class 4) not much need be said; the supervision of women employees, the prevention of theft, and a varying degree of supervision of women and girls frequenting railway stations comprises their work; and it is likely that other Railway Companies will soon follow the example of the two which already employ Policewomen in Munition Factories, there is a very large demand indeed for recruits, and amongst those now enlisted are not necessarily intending to make it their permanent employment; this allows reasonable security to those wishing to adopt it as a career that they will not, in the long run, be crowded out, even should a certain proportion of the factories now employing Policewomen cease to do so when the war is over. The Women Police Service has the contract to supply all the Explosive Department of Munitions Police: those supplied to the Admiralty come under the London Paid Patrols, whilst Controlled Firms can supply them from any source they may select.

As a general rule, women desiring to take up any branch of Police or Paid Patrol work should be between twenty-seven and forty-five years of age, over 5 feet 3 inches in height, and sound in health, sight and hearing. They should have had a secondary-school education or equivalent, and have gained experience in some form of social work, or in nursing, midwifery, teaching, etc.; and tact, sympathy initiative and common sense are essential. It is vital at the outset of the work to secure women capable of developing it to the full limit of its possibilities, in order to pave the way for less educated women to follow them, and to provide these with officers capable of directing their energies.

Women entering Borough Forces should not, as a rule, be over forty years of age; and there is little doubt that as time goes on the tendency will be to a lower age limit, in order to meet the question of superannuation after so many years' service. The work of women in Borough Forces varies a little in the different towns, being more specialized in the larger Forces; but the ruling idea in every case is that the Policewoman, whilst forming a real part of the Force, should not do all the ordinary work of a Constable -- take a beat, control traffic, etc. -- but should, at the discretion of the Chief Constable, act in relation to women and girls in the following ways:

  • Patrol streets and parks.
  • Suppress solicitation.
  • Inspect places of amusement, women's lodging-house, etc.
  • Supervise children engaged in street-trading.
  • Check child-beggars.
  • Make investigations relating to women and children.
  • Take depositions from women and children.
  • Attend police-courts on their behalf.

Women taking up work in Borough Forces will find that previous experience in some form of routine-work is a great help to them; it must not be forgotten that they are being admitted to the Forces with long-established precedents, regulations and beliefs; it is no part of the Policewoman's work to go counter to these with the intention of reforming them, but, by quiet good work in the tasks allotted to her, to prove that she is fit to take a share in the traditions of a Force whose members she will accord an increasing respect as she continues to work with them. Her work will often be slow in coming at first, and in some cases her way will be distinctly uphill; but there is no other road to Police knowledge than "through the mill," and it is by this road that women with a capacity for leadership and for original work must go if they would earn the right to exercise their talents to the full.

We now come to Class 3, Paid Patrols. Those employed in London, working with the Metropolitan Police, and paid by Scotland Yard, are at present engaged chiefly upon work coming under Nos. 1 and 2 of the activities given above for Policewomen; and they are making a valuable contribution towards the welfare of the nation. Their work differs from that of that of the Paid Patrols in the provinces in being carried out in the actual company of men constables on their different beats; whilst a further distinction is that they draw their pay from the Police, whereas Paid Patrols in provincial towns in some cases receive it through a voluntary association.

One may say that provincial Paid Patrols are the free-lances of Policewomen's work, tapping at the door of public opinion, winning its confidence, and developing their work as need and opportunity arise. Whereas the Policewoman has one master and one avenue of employment in her Chief Constable, the Paid Patrol has often several other employers; for though she undertakes a variety of work on behalf of the Police, and extends this side of her activities to the utmost, she is also approached by the Military Authorities, the Health Authority, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and others interested in public welfare. So long as she draws her pay from some other source than the Police Rate it is for her to discriminate amongst such avenues of work, and to build up her position on the lines best calculated to convince the public of the desirability of extending their probation to the employment of bona fide Policewomen.

Here is scope for unlimited talent and energy, judgment, and pioneering instinct. And here, too, is an opportunity for the war-worker to find her vocation; for whereas in Classes 1 and 2 the Chief Constable wants women who will settle down and become part of the life of the town, the provincial Paid Patrol can often best crown her labors by moving on to another town and so making way for the Policewoman whom she has been the means of introducing. On the other hand, women who mean to make Police work their career, but want some more general insight before entering a Force, cannot do better than begin as Paid Patrols; and, if suitable, they can rely on obtaining a Police post later on the strength of their Patrol experience. There is scope in this class for women up to forty-five years of age and over; Patrol-leaders , who are also grouped in this class, require much the same qualifications. Their work differes from that of the Paid Patrols in that they have to achieve it through the means of voluntary part-time work, whose activities they coordinate and direct, and between whom and the various Local Authorities they act as an intermediary.

The qualifications for Classes 4 and 5 differ from those already described only in so far that, as the work itself has a rather narrower scope, it offers some cases opportunity to women who do not quite fulfill the requirements of Borough Forces and Paid Patrol posts. In factories where the number of Policewomen employed large the burden of initiative does not fall so heavily on each individual member of the Force; but, on the other hand, a great deal is required of these officers, and as the Policewomen themselves gain in experience they can render very valuable service. In Class 4 women are required who will take up the work as a permanent profession; in Class 5, there is scope both for these and for temporary workers.

As regards the pay of women in all these classes, £ 2.28 a week and uniform is the usual salary at the present time; and though this is not a high wage compared with that earned by women with the same qualifications in other branches of work, it must be remembered that in Police work we are all more or less learners, and that good work will always command a good price inthe long run.

Having considered the work, the final question arises of how to obtain an appointment. There is no question that the best plan is to do so through some School for Policewomen; this enables the would-be recruit to test her ability, sample the work, and to choose from a far wider range of posts than would be the case if she secured one for herself; and it also avoids the danger of undertaking work which she does not understand or for which she is not fitted. Police-court attendance, street patrolling, report-writing, deportment, case-investigation are essential preliminaries; whilst a knowledge of elementary criminal law and of the various pitfalls which beset the unwary Policewomen are equally important.

As regards the various organizations through which appointments can be obtained, after a course of training including some, or all, of the points mentioned above, the following are those already in existence:

(a) For Patrol Leaders (in any part of England and Wales). The National Union of Women Workers, through their Central Patrol Committee, at 105 Victoria Street, London, S.W. 1.

(b) For Paid Patrols (in London and elsewhere, through the Metropolitan Police), the London Patrol Committee, 11 St. Mathew Street, Westminster, S.W. 1.

(c) For Munitions Police (Explosives Department) and regular Policewomen, the Women Police Service, 6 Eccleston Square, Victoria Street, S.W. 1.

(d) For Patrol Leaders, Paid Patrols (other than through the Metropolitan Police), Munitions Police (other than for the Explosives Department), and regular Policewomen, the Bristol Training School for Women Patrols and Police, 77 Queen's Road, Briston. The School cooperates with the National Union of Women Workers with regard to the supply of Patrol Leaders and Paid Patrols, whilst supplying Policewomen direct to Chief Constables and to Munitions Factories as required.

It is of the utmost importance that an adequate supply of educated women should be available at the present time, in order that all these branches of work should develop along the best possible lines; and such women are urged to offer themselves, either permanently, or for the period of the War, for this most truly National Service.

From the Contemporary Review, 1918; thanks to sameshield.com

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