Later this week, the Metropolitan Police Service will recreate a photo of women police officers, originally taken in 1919, in celebration of 100 years of women in policing.
Officers will be mirroring a photo taken of some of the Met’s first women police officers displaying their new uniform, standing on Clive Steps in Westminster.
The planning, designing and the creating of the replica 1919 uniforms took over six months to complete. They were based on the original uniform which was made by Harrods. When the 12 sets were delivered to New Scotland Yard they were altered to fit 12 present day Met officers. The photo will be recreated on Friday, 17 May.
Police archives have revealed interesting facts relating to some of the women in the original photo, including:
Edith Ridley was one of the first women to join the Met on 17 February 1919 and was made a Sergeant. Edith was required to resign on 24 December 1925 for ‘discreditable conduct - wearing war medals’.
Alice Bertha Clayton joined the Met on 19 March 1919. Her father and two brothers were Inspectors in the Met. In 1923 Alice was promoted to Inspector, where she looked after the welfare of 20 women patrols who remained after the attempted disbandment by the government in 1922. She left the force in 1941.
Elizabeth Amelia Hayes joined the Met on 14 July 1919. She left the force in 1922.
Margaret Constantinou, the Met's Uniform Technical Manager, said: "Although I am a uniform fitter for the Met, my first role after Fashion College was a designer.
"In September I was excited to get my first glimpse of the original jacket which is being held in the Met's Heritage Centre at the Empress State Building. Due to the age of the jacket I was required to wear gloves so that I could inspect it in detail and take accurate measurements. This has been an extremely exciting time for me and I can't wait to see the final uniforms on all of the officers."
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Lucy D’Orsi, said: “Celebrating 100 years of Metropolitan Police Women has been really important to everyone. I have been really touched by the enthusiasm of so many people who have wanted to be involved and make it a special year. I would like to thank Margaret and her colleagues for their work and vision in recreating the original uniforms to mark this moment in history. Margaret’s talent speaks for itself and we are very proud of her achievement whether it be ceremonial dress designs, recreating the past or the daily work she does to fit colleagues with their uniform. Thank you Margaret.”
Other earlier officers included an inspirational woman Bertha Bullock, who joined the Met in December 1930 at the age of 26, having travelled from her home town in Tadcaster, Yorkshire to London. She attended Peel House in London for an examination in 1931 after completing six months service. She was paid 62s a week and lived in lodgings.
Bertha’s great niece, Louise Smith explains her policing role: “Her duties were somewhat restricted in those days, being generally confined to dealing with women and children. Her duties included looking after female prisoners, reducing prostitution, dealing with domestic disputes, child abuse and juvenile offending. In addition to this she was also required to complete administrative duties and school crossing patrols. Following her service in the Met, she joined the police in Leeds in 1934.
“As a family, we are proud of the policing work she performed and pleased to see her service in the Met being recognised as part of this commemoration. Bertha and her colleagues were courageous women, who took great pride in the work they did.”
Bertha was awarded an MBE in 1964 for her police and probation work in Leeds.
Today, nearly 8,000 women officers occupy a huge range of influential and important roles across the organisation in every area of our work and at every rank. All operational policing roles are open to women whether that is running armed operations, supervising surveillance teams, carrying firearms or supporting victims of crime and abuse. The appointment of Commissioner Cressida Dick in 2017 shows there truly are no limits to being a woman in the Met.
For more information about the Met’s women in policing timeline, visit the Metropolitan Woman Police Association’s website: https://www.metwpa.org.uk/history-of-women-police-officers.html
A unique photographic exhibition featuring female police officers on the frontline, working in units ranging from firearms to the mounted branch and the marine police is open at City Hall in Central London. The exhibition runs until Friday, 31 May, and is open from 08:30 to 17:30hrs weekdays, with a late closure of 18:00hrs on Fridays.