Officers celebrate the life of Grantham policewoman Edith Smith
Officers from Merseyside, Lincolnshire and Cheshire and partners will come together in Runcorn today to celebrate the life and work of Britain’s first warranted police woman, Edith Smith who walked the beat in Grantham.
After learning that Edith, who died in 1923, was buried in an unmarked grave, a project to raise money for a headstone to commemorate and raise awareness of her was launched in October.
The project was initiated by officers and staff from Merseyside Police support network, Parity 21, in conjunction with Lincolnshire Police, Cheshire Police and the Historical Societies of Grantham, Oxton and Runcorn and £2,500 has been raised.
Edith was born on November 21, 1876 near the centre of Oxton, Birkenhead, where she grew up, married and had four children. She became a midwife when her husband died, before joining the Woman’s Police Volunteers in 1914 when the war broke out. The Woman's Police Volunteers eventually reformed as the Woman’s Police Service.
Edith was eventually posted to the Grantham area to assist in issues including drunkenness, the widespread use of cocaine, prostitution and the consequent spread of venereal disease. At the time of her posting, women officers were expected to carry out actual policing duties, with no powers of arrest and unlike the male officers they were not paid out of local rates.
In December 1915, after a meeting was held to discuss the progress of the policewoman with Chief Constable Casburn, he signed Edith Smith's warrant card and she received the power of arrest, becoming the first full WPC and her name moved into history.
Today, a service will be held at St Mary's Church and Halton cemetery, Runcorn, where a headstone now stands at Edith’s previously unmarked grave. The service will be attended by one of Edith's only two remaining family members - her granddaughter, who is in her late 80s.
Assistant Chief Constable for Lincolnshire Police, Kerrin Wilson, said: “We are immensely proud that such an important figure in the history of policing served right here with us in Lincolnshire. This amazing woman was very much a trailblazer for all who came after her and her efforts very much paved the way for the female officers of today.
“We are absolutely honoured to support this dedication to her which will hopefully ensure that she is now rightly remembered for generations to come.
“I am also delighted that Lincolnshire Police has been able to contribute £1,000 towards the headstone – this was made possible thanks to Val Hills, a resident who left us £98,000 in her will.”
South Kesteven District Council Cabinet Member for Communities, Health, Wellbeing and Skills, Coun Jacky Smith, and fellowGrantham District Councillor Ray Wootten have each donated £100 to the appeal.
Coun Smith said: “Edith Smith served Grantham and its people before moving on to nursing in Cheshire and it is only right that her pioneering work is recognised at her final resting place.”
Coun Wootten, a retired police officer who is vice-chairman of the Lincolnshire police and Crime Panel, said: “Her dedication, energy and courage made great strides for women at a time when they weren’t even paid members of the force.”