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Winnipeg Police Service

Women in Policing
Celebrating the commitment & contributions of women in law enforcement and the Winnipeg Police Service.

History 1916 - 1992

Researched and 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, 1917.

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, 1938.

Clara Donaldson

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 Regulations. Their 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.

Mary Halama

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 Aizita 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.

Lucienne Gelinas

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.

Martha Look

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.

Susan Irvine

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 that distinction.

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 per annum).

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 month.

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 male constables. o:p>

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 (sic) 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 occasions.

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 occurred.

Editor’s note: This article was originally written for the ‘Blueprint’ in 1992.

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