Police celebrate 100 years of women in the force – that’s 13 years longer than they’ve had right to vote

Sussex Police women SUS-150416-110919001
Sussex Police women SUS-150416-110919001

But women have only had that right for 87 years and it is something our grandmothers and great-grandmothers fought long and hard to secure.

It beggars belief that, during the lifetime of some of our most senior citizens, the law saw women as of lesser worth than men.

In 1918 it was decreed only women over 30 could vote and it was another 10 years before women were given the same voting rights as men.

This was after more than 30 years of suffrage which saw women arrested, imprisoned and abused for their determination to be treated as equal to men.

The concept must be extremely hard to grasp for girls growing up today, who would be outraged if they were told they couldn’t take part in the same activities as boys.

With election turnout figures showing more men than women vote, it is these girls who need to be informed about the fight their ancestors went through to secure this most basic of rights.

They should see the trip to the ballot box as a proud duty, not just a right.

It may be 13 years down the road but the celebration to mark the centenary of the birth of equality for women will be one to remember.

Sussex Police has recently held a similar celebration – it’s been 100 years since women were allowed to join the force.

One hundred female staff, volunteers, specials, cadets and officers from all ranks and roles got together with Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne and Chief Constable Giles York to mark the milestone with a souvenir photo.

The picture was organised by Evolve, the Sussex Police Women’s Network Group.

Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney said: “Since 1915 women have worked extremely hard to keep Sussex safe. The photograph highlights the variety of roles women now have in the force.

“I am proud to serve alongside every one of my female colleagues from cadets, firearms officers, scenes of crime staff, PCSOs, as well as police staff.”

Mrs Bourne added: “This important anniversary isn’t just a retrospective look back; it’s a celebration of the achievements of all female officers and staff who have formerly or currently serve our communities in Sussex.

“It has also been a chance to promote the opportunities that exist for women in some of the more specialist policing roles. Although the number of women in policing is increasing steadily, achieving a gender balance – particularly among the senior ranks – is still a challenge.”

Sussex Police has a right to be proud – they were employing women before any of them were allowed to vote – a fact which needs to be recognised.

But why are such milestones celebrated? Why do we hold Black History Month, join in the Pride parades or mark International Women’s Day?

It’s because not too far back in our nation’s history, these were people who were either persecuted or seen as being of lesser importance simply because of their gender, sexual preference or the colour of their skin.

If we don’t celebrate their successes, we leave ourselves open to failing the next social group which demands an equal voice.