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Edith Smith was born 21st November 1876 near the centre of Oxton and once married she became the sub-postmistress of Wellington Road Post office. She settled into married life and had four children, however after the sudden death of her husband, Edith now 31 was left to care for her children alone.
After initially training as a midwife and nurse events of the summer of 1914 were to change everything. During the outbreak of war Edith joined the Woman Police volunteers who began patrolling the streets to help and give advice to woman and children refugees arriving in London. The Womans Police Volunteers eventually reformed as the Womans Police Service.
Edith and a colleague were eventually posted to the Grantham area to assist in the issues around Beltham Park, an Army camp with thousands of soldiers due to the concern caused to civil and military authorities who struggled to maintain law and order. Some of the main concerns included drunkenness, the widespread use of cocaine, prostitution and the consequent spread of venereal disease.
At the time of their posting the ladies 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. Edith was described as A woman of outstanding personality, fearless, motherly and adaptable and continued to work in this area often in the face of adversity.
In November 1915 a meeting was held to discuss the progress of the policewoman with the Chief Constable whom had initially warned the officers to Stay out of the way stating he was now most satisfied with their performance and a vote to pay the Policewoman from the rates was agreed.
In December 1915 Chief Constable Casburn signed Edith Smiths warrant card and she received the power of arrest becoming the first full WPC and her name moved into history.
Edith undertook what was effectively the first safeguarding duties of an officer, ensuring the morale wellbeing of the young girls in the town was protected whilst disrupting the fallen women who were forced to leave town because The Policewoman was such a nuisance!
Edith took no holidays, had no days off worked night and day as required and received no pension. Once her colleague resigned Edith remained in the town working alone.
In addition to the above Edith travelled throughout Britain, gave talks and wrote books on Womans Policing. She was a great campaigner and was able to demonstrate and convince authorities that woman could succeed in policing.
By the end of 1917 Edith was tired and her career had impacted on her health. She eventually retired and moved to the Halton area where she returned to nursing. Though strong and energetic it seems Edith was experiencing what would perhaps today be seen as depression and in June 1923 She died from a self-induced overdose of morphine.
Edit was buried in Runcorn where her grave was located in Halton Cemetery. Despite her unique place in British Social history Edith currently rests in an unmarked Grave.
To celebrate her position as the first warranted woman police officer Parity 21 are seeking to raise funds to mark Ediths final resting place with a headstone and a ceremony to mark her achievements. We hope to invite a local historian to share Ediths story with colleagues.
Edith is an inspiration to all who have followed in her footsteps and are proud to serve as a Police Officer and It is an honour for me to be involved in acknowledging her phenomenal contribution to Policing history.