A Merry Michaelmas to all my readers.
Today is the Feast Day of
the asexual St. Michael and All Angels. It’s an important date in European
cultural tradition, being one of the four Quarter Days with which the Medieval
world divided the years, all roughly corresponding to the present day equinoxes
Of the many patronages
attached to St. Michael is that of the police force and armed services.
Consequently, the Catholic Church uses today’s feast day to hold a mass not
only for St. Michael (hence Michael-mass) but for police officers, the armed
forces, firefighters and emergency service personnel. Because of the colour of
the uniform which most of these people wear this special mass is called the
This year is the centenary
of the appointment of the first female police officers. There were several
women who had been given police roles before this but in 1915 the first female
police officer with full arrest duties was appointed and several organisations
were formed. One was the Women’s Police Service in England, and another was the
organisation which became today’s International Association of Women Police,
founded in the USA.
In salute to women who
serve in the police forces around the world here are some British lgbt female
police officers from past and recent history.
The origin of women
serving in the police force in the UK grew out of several social issues of the
period before 1915. One was the suffragette movement, another was the growth of
the prostitution and white slave trade, and a third was the outbreak of the
First World War.
As the majority of male
police officers were called up for war service the government called for
volunteers to replace them. They didn’t envisage women coming forward and
before too long a part-time Women Police Volunteer force was created. It was
led by Nina Boyle and Margaret Damer
Dawson (1873-1920). Within a year a disagreement between them led to
Margaret forming a new organisation called the Women Police Service (WPS). The
first uniformed female police officer with full powers of arrest was recruited
from the WPS in August 1915. Her name was Mrs. Edith Smith.
Margaret Damer Dawson
acted as Commandant of the WPS until it was disbanded by the government after
the war. They saw no need for a separate women’s police force once the war was
over. Her second-in-command was her life partner Mary Allen (1878-1964). They designed the WPS uniforms themselves,
and they continued to wear them long after the WPS was disbanded. They cut
their hair short and, in their military-style uniforms, gave a very masculine
appearance, as this photo of them both shows (Margaret Damer Dawson is on the
left). In 1918 they were both honoured for their service to the police force by
being awarded one of the recently created honours, the OBE (Officer of the
Order of the British Empire).
Margaret died in 1920. By
this time the Metropolitan Police had created its own women’s police division.
Mary Allen’s decision to wear her uniform for the rest of her life led to the
Metropolitan Police to accuse her of masquerading as one of their officers. All
accusations came to nothing. She travelled the world advising other nations on
how to set up their own female police forces. Because of her uniform she was
often mistaken for an official representative from the British police force.
Mary stood for parliament
in 1922 as an Independent Liberal but wasn’t elected. In between the World Wars
Mary’s political views were to dominate her life. She became an ardent
far-right supporter, and this was to place her pioneering work in the women’s
police force into shadow. Her membership of the British Union of Fascists and
outspoken views eventually led to her being accused of spying for the Nazis and
was she given restricted movement around her home in Cornwall. Mary Allen died
at the age of 86 in 1961 in a nursing home.
The role of women in the
police force has grown in recent decades. Their bravery and courage are
recognised by the British public with pride. No more so than when and police
officer loses his or her life on duty.
In September 2012 the UK
was on a high after the spectacularly successful Olympics and Paralympics. We
were jolted back down by the murder of two female police officers in
Manchester. British police are not armed when on normal duty, so the murder of
any of them is shocking. An extra unhappy aspect to this particular murder is
that one of the police officers was planning to get married.
Fiona Bone was planning
her Civil Partnership to her girlfriend Clare Curran later that year. She and
fellow police constable Nicola Hughes were called to a house burglary. It was a
trap. When they arrived at the house they were met with a hail of 32 bullets
and a hand grenade attack. One died at the scene and the other died later in
hospital. The murderer gave himself up. Apparently he was wanted for the
similar-styled murder of a father and son in May 2012. Thankfully he was given
a whole life prison sentence.
The funerals of both PC
Bone and PC Hughes attracted huge crowds. Their lives and sacrifices were
honoured in parliament. Next week marks the second anniversary of their
Before I finish todays
there’s a male police officer I’d like to mention on this day of recognition
for the world’s police.
Ciccone died in May
this year at the age of 71. He was co-founder of the first lgbt police
association in the USA. Sam became a police office in New Jersey in 1964 rising
to become a Detective Sergeant. In 1979 he moved to New York after its mayor
banned discrimination in the police force on the grounds of sexual orientation.
With fellow NYPD officer Charles H. Cochrane jr. Sam co-founded the Gay
Officers Action League (GOAL) in 1982. GOAL now has over 2,000 members and many
of them appear in uniform at various Pride parades across America.
I salute the work of all