British Association for Women in Policing


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A BLUE plaque has been unveiled in Grantham honouring the memory of the first female police officer to be given the power of arrest.

Edith Smith (pictured) came to the Leicestershire town in 1915 to help tackle prostitution after the billeting of 14,000 soldiers to the area during World War One.

She was the first woman to be sworn in as a police constable with official powers of arrest.

PC Smith had the same powers as an ordinary policeman, was employed as a member of the local police force, and was answerable to the Chief Constable.

PC Smith was seen as a pioneer and the plaque was placed on the wall of the old town police station where she worked after a short ceremony.

She resigned from the force in 1918 and died five years later, having dealt with more than 380 incidents.

PC Smith, a former midwife, was one of 4,000 women who took on policing functions during 1915 and beyond. They were given powers for the first time to patrol their beats and deal with things like ensuring orderly behaviour in parks, railways stations and other public spaces.

Lincolnshire Police's assistant chief constable Heather Roach, who unveiled the plaque, described Edith as "an absolute pioneer".

She said: "What she achieved was outstanding - she proved the absolute value of women within policing. Edith really got to know the girls in the neighbourhood and really understood them."

PC Smith wrote of her time in Grantham: "The appointment has made such a vast difference - the prostitutes have found that it does not pay and the frivolous girls have bowed down."

One report read: "Forty foolish girls warned, 20 prostitutes sent out of Grantham, two fallen girls helped, five bad women cautioned."

In 1916, PC Smith cautioned 100 wayward girls in larceny cases, 16 women and 15 girls were found to be drunk. Ten prostitutes were convicted, 10 were handed over to their parents and 50 were cautioned.

A spokesman for the Grantham Civic Society, which organised the plaque, said: "She worked for six days a week - she only had one day off and she got one weekend off every three months. If she didn't work because she was ill she lost a shilling."

 

 

Pioneering female police officer remembered a century on

 

 

 

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