History & Museum Historical Stories
POLICEWOMEN IN WINNIPEG
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Researched & written by Staff Sergeant Jack Templeman (retired)
The Winnipeg Police
Force ranks among one of the earliest departments in Canada to
employ women as 'Police Constables'.
The Winnipeg Police Commission meeting on December 22nd, 1916 passed the following resolution:
"moved by Mayor Waugh
and resolved that two women be appointed as constables on the
police department and that particulars as to their salaries, hours
of work and other details be arranged by the Chairman of the Board
and the Chief Constable."
It did not take long to
fill these jobs with the first official female 'police
constable' taken on strength on December 27th, 1916.
The second woman joined her soon after on January 4th,
Mary E. Dunn
Was a lady 43 years of
age when she joined. She
served only four years and resigned on April 15th, 1920.
She was actually the first female police constable.
Jane Isabel Andrews
Was a lady 44 years of
age when she joined. Often
mistakenly called the first policewoman (including in her obituary
and the Century of Service), she was really the second, but was
the first who served full time until pensioned on April 30th,
Also a mature lady of 42
years of age when she joined on April 20th, 1920, to replace Mary
Dunn. She also served
full time until going on pension on July lst, 1941.
These women were only
issued a badge, a whistle, a callbox key and the book of Rules and
duties consisted of working with the Morality officers and dealing
mostly with children or distressed women.
They seldom went out of the station and when they did they
were always accompanied by male officers.
Helen Marianne Hansford
Was next to join the department on July 1st, 1941, to replace Clara Donaldson. She was only 34 years old at the time which was considerably younger than the previous women had been. Helen was also the first local woman to join having been born in Winnipeg.
Helen Hansford was
considered by many as the first real policewoman because she went
out onto the streets alone at times checking rooming houses, the
Main Street hotels, train stations and the bus depot for juveniles
and others in need of care. She was well respected by all members of the department and
others she worked with. Helen
retired after thirty years of service on July 10th, 1971 and was
seriously ill with cancer. She
died a few months later on February 20th, 1972.
Although the department
had been authorized to have two female constables, there was in
fact only one from 1938 when Andrews retired until 1957 when the
event of mixed beverage rooms and lounges made it necessary to
increase female presence on the Force.
Three women were added by 'promoting' two Matrons and
hiring a woman directly. The
department now had 4 female officers.
Alice Louise Schultz
Had joined the
department as a Matron in 1955 and was 'promoted' to
policewoman on April 29th, 1957.
Alice served with the Morality Division and retired to
pension on May 10th, 1975.
Had also joined the
department as a Matron in 1955 and was also 'promoted' to
policewoman on April 29th, 1957.
Mary resigned on May 15th, 1960.
Geraldina Alberta Ohlsson
Joined as a policewoman
on April 29th, 1957 and went directly to the Morality Division. She resigned on June 15th, 1960.
A small point of
interest that also occurred in 1957 was the first time policewomen
were armed although it was only with leather billets (blackjacks).
They were not issued guns until the 1970's.
The resignations in 1960
required the replacement of two women so the department again
'promoted' from within.
Helen Anita Woollard
She joined the
department as the first Supervisor for the new 999 Emergency
Telephone System when it began in 1959.
She was 'promoted' to policewoman on May 16th, 1960 and
served a full career until retiring to pension on December 2nd,
1989. Helen also had
two other firsts, being the first policewoman to attend a full
regular recruit class (#56) and being the first policewoman in
Winnipeg to wear a police uniform.
The uniform was actually for use on special occasions such
as Police Expo and Police Conventions.
Helen was also very active in the struggle for female
equality within the department.
Had also joined the
department in 1959 as one of the original eight Emergency
Telephone Operators for the 999 system.
She was 'promoted' to policewoman on August 1st, 1960.
Lucienne resigned on June 11th, 1972.
The next event to effect the number of female officers on the Department occurred on August 12th, 1968 when the Juvenile Division was created as a separate resource to deal with the growing juvenile problems. The Morality Division continued to deal with the problems now handled under the Vice Division. Hansford, Schultz and Woollard remained in the Morality Division while Gelinas went to Juvenile Division. She was joined by three more policewomen to bring the total up to seven. Again the Department 'promoted' two employees and hired an additional one.
Had joined the department in 1964 as an Emergency Telephone Operator and was 'promoted' to policewoman on August 12th, 1968. Martha served more than twenty-five years and took pension on January 27th, 1990.
Doreen Dortha Schur
Had joined the Department as a clerk in 1965 and was also 'promoted' to policewoman on August 12th, 1968. Doreen resigned on June 19th, 1969.
Joined directly into the
Juvenile Division as a policewoman on August 12th, 1968. Susan resigned on April 10th, 1981.
Over the next six years, prior to Amalgamation in 1974, a number of other women joined the department and went directly to the specialist divisions:
Carol Lee Durward joined Jan. 6th 1969 - resigned Jan. 17th, 1972.
Mavis McGill joined May 5th, 1969 - resigned April 30th, 1971.
Beverley Zylich joined July 5th, 1971 - resigned Aug. 5th, 1979.
Abigail Phillips joined July 22nd, 1971 - resigned May 5th, 1979.
Donna MacDonald joined Aug. 22nd, 1972 - resigned Dec. 23rd, 1977.
Susan Litz joined Oct. 17th, 1972 - resigned Mar. 9th, 1983.
In 1974, a summer Law
Student, Linda Petit, served for four months in the Juvenile
Division but she did not become a regular member.
In the 58 years that
women served as constables/policewomen in the Winnipeg Police
Force prior to amalgamation, only 18 women can claim a part of
The only other police
department in the metro area to have female police officers was
the St. James-Assiniboia Police Force.
In 1972, Valarie Cobb served for a short time and she was
replaced in 1973 by Rita Kozikis who came into the Winnipeg Police
Force upon amalgamation. Rita
resigned on February 27th, 1981.
The original reference
to women as 'police constables' does not seem to have lasted
long as they soon became known as 'policewomen' and therefore
had a category by themselves and always at the bottom including on
the pay scale. It was
some fifty years before the pay scale balanced.
In 1917, the lowest paid
male constable was 5th class at $85.00 a month ($1,020.00 per
annum) while the new females were paid $75.00 a month ($900. 00
In 1938, the females
still had one pay level of $99.20 a month while male constables
now had three classes with lowest 3rd class male earning $113.00 a
In 1957, when the number
of females increased fourfold the working agreement shows females
had two classes but they were only equal to the 3rd and 2nd class
In 1962, the male
constables are shown with four classes and the females moved up to
three classes but still not equal to the 1st class male.
1967 was the year that
Canada celebrated its centennial year and women finally got
equality in status and pay. The
Police Commission passed a motion in February for equal classes
and pay and at the next meeting approved the advancement of
Hansford, Schultz, Woollard and Gelinas to lst class effective
April lst, 1967.
The issue of clothing
allowance had not been a problem over the years as the females
were granted the same allowance as detectives after the General
Strike in 1919 and received the periodic increases.
Promotion was the other
area that effected the female officers and, in part, the name
'policewoman' rather than 'constable' probably had an
influence to some degree, at least in later years.
The first women on the job may not have had much interest
in promotion but in the 1960's, when some interest was shown, the
male attitude appears to have been 'it doesn't mean women so
don't bother applying'. In
fairness to the male officers, you must consider the era as there
was probably little thought given to how a woman would be used in
a supervisory capacity. It
must also be remembered that the policewomen did not work in
uniform patrol divisions and had even been placed in modified
duties in plainclothes. Even
the Rules and Regulations at late as 1963 seemed to spell out that
promotion was only for male constables when you look at sections
224 and 232. They
refer to 'eligible men' and 'the qualified man'.
Section 20 for that same year still lists females as
'policewomen' at the bottom of the rank structure and pay
scales and they could still not reach lst class status.
1967 was the year for
pay equality, but it was not until after the amalgamation in 1974
that real equality began in earnest.
It was then that females were required to take the same
training, wear uniforms and were sent to work in the patrol
divisions. It now
became an equal pay/equal work situation and eventually an equal
opportunity for promotion. While
the opportunity was there, it did take a long time before it
became a reality and finally in 1987, the first female constable
was promoted to sergeant level.
Linda Kisil was the
first female constable promoted to the rank of Sergeant II in
1987. In 1991,
Shelley Hart became the first female to receive a second promotion
when she put on the gold stripes of a Sergeant I.
In 1995 she was the first
female promoted to the rank of Inspector. Five other female
officers had been promoted to Sergeant II up to the end of 1991.
Brenda Fogg (1988), Shelley Hart and Geraldine Rudyk
(1989), Susan Biggs, (1990), and Corrine Scott (1991).
Amalgamation was also
the opportunity for females to be accepted as Police Cadets (18-21
years of age). This
program had originated in January 1961 and finally on August 18th,
1975, Brenda Ranson became the first female cadet.
Many others entered the department after that as cadets and
became constables after their 21st birthday.
On the subject of
'firsts', the first females who went directly from training
into a patrol division were Susan Biggs, Elaine Joyce and Wendy
Pongoski from Class #84 to Division 17 Traffic.
Another 'first' occurred in 1978 when Brenda Ranson and Judy Grout became the first female constables assigned to walk 'the drag' (beats 1171/1172).
Between Amalgamation in
1974 and the end of 1991, the number of women on the department
has slowly been increasing. In
that period, 18 women have joined and left the department for
various reasons but at the end of 1991, there are 55 female
officers on the job with a number more expected in the next class.
Female uniforms have
probably seen more changes over the years than any other
equipment. The first uniforms were strictly for ceremonial occasions
such as Police Conventions or Police Expos.
Helen Woollard was first issued a uniform in 1961 and was
soon followed by Lucienne Gelinas so they could take part in a
convention at the Royal Alexandra Hotel in 1962.
The uniform consisted of a skirt and tunic without pockets. A white nylon shirt was worn and a box style cap with badge.
White gloves and a black purse with shoulder strap
completed the uniform. A
set of city crest pins were worn as collar badges.
The caps were changed to
a bowler style with a bow under the badge in the mid 60's.
The shirts were changed to light blue similar to the male
shirt when it was changed in 1967 for the Pan-Am Games and the
crest style shoulder flashes were added at the same time.
The early 70's saw
another change in cap to a wide brimmed style similar to a
stewardess or British female officers.
Leather belts were also added to the uniform for ceremonial
1975 saw the big change
in uniforms with females destined for patrol division.
The jackets were made with two lower pockets and trousers
were worn. The full
Sam Browne belt was worn with holster and handcuff pouch.
The 'stewardess' caps were not popular and were
replaced with forage caps in 1976.
Since that time, the uniforms for males and females have
been basically the same and changes have been the same when they
Editor's note: This article was originally written for the 'Blueprint'
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