Protection or Control: The Campaign for and Introduction of Women Police in New South Wales
This thesis examines the feminist campaign for women police in the early twentieth century, and the introduction of women police officers into the NSW police force in 1915. It will identify the ways women’s organisations argued that women police were necessary to ensure the greater protection of women and children. Although conceptualised as an act of protection, this thesis examines how the feminist demand for women police officers reflected broader cultural anxieties relating to young women’s changing relationship to the urban landscape. In attempting to forge their own roles in policing, feminist social reformers reinforced the idea that predominantly young women required maternal and moral supervision. Whilst acknowledging the blurred and often reinforcing concepts of protection and control, women’s organisations expected the work of women police to be strictly welfare-oriented, a type of rescue work that differed from the work of male police. However, this thesis will reveal how after the appointment of women police, the NSW police department frequently adapted the duties of these women to access parts of the community that male police were excluded from. In doing so, women police officers became a valuable tool for the police force, enhancing the department’s capacity for criminal detection, surveillance, and intelligence. Using a wide of archival materials, including feminist periodicals, publications, newspapers, and police reports, this thesis reconsiders the feminist campaign and subsequent appointment of women police in NSW. In doing so, it will shed light on the contradictory and highly gendered expectations placed on women in policing, and how women police officers both challenged and reinforced these ideas.