Women’s History Month 2022: Celebrating the first four
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Women’s History Month is a time for us to celebrate the exceptional contributions of women within our organisation, both today and throughout history.
As part of the celebrations, our Heritage Centre is sharing the stories of the first four female police officers appointed by our predecessor forces in Glamorgan, Cardiff, Swansea and Merthyr.
These four officers were appointed for duties in the years following Second World War. They may not have known it then, but they were to blaze a trail for every woman who has since served and are yet to serve our communities. It marked a new beginning for policing in south Wales. Here are their stories.
Swansea Borough Constabulary
Winifred Stephens was the first female police officer appointed by any of our predecessor forces. She joined the Swansea Borough Constabulary on 23rd June 1946, having previously served communities as a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corp (WAPC).
Winifred’s work as a WAPC did not go unnoticed by those around her. In early 1946, she and two other colleagues were approached and asked to submit reports applying to join the Swansea Borough Police. Winifred duly submitted hers and as a result became the Borough’s first female officer. Soon after her appointment she underwent thirteen weeks of training in Bridgend before being assigned to police duties.
Winifred Stephens, Swansea’s first female police officer.
From 1946 until her resignation in 1951, Winifred’s positive contributions earned recognition from the local newspaper press and a commendation by the force’s then-Chief Constable, David Turner. The latter was awarded to Winnifred for her bravery and prompt action in helping to prevent a woman from taking her own life. During the same period, she was praised in the local press for her efforts in preventing a road accident when a breakaway trailer came loose from a car on the Swansea High Street. The quick-thinking constable bravely tackled the trailer and eventually guided it to the side of the road.
Winifred resigned from police duties in January 1951 to get married and start a family. Her conduct – which was marked at the end of her service – was noted as exemplary.
Cardiff City Police
Joan Coke became the first female police officer appointed by the Cardiff City Police on January 15th, 1947.
Prior to her appointment, Joan served for almost six years in the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the Second World War. Upon appointment, Joan and her colleagues were sent for training at Bridgend before being stationed across our Capital City.
Joan Coke during police service.
In her early years as a police officer, Joan patrolled the Tiger Bay area of Cardiff and the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Joan, who was remembered for her “single minded and adventurous” nature, would also serve much further afield. In 1957 she boldly swapped Cardiff for Cyprus and volunteered for police service on the island until 1959. Her experience in the Mediterranean was invaluable as whilst there she was promoted temporarily to Sergeant.
Joan returned to service in Cardiff before joining South Wales Police on its amalgamation in 1969. Whilst serving South Wales she would receive a commendation from the then Chief Constable, Gwilym Morris, and hold the distinction of being the first female police officer from South Wales to retire with a full police pension in 1973.
Ceridwen Davies became the first female police officer appointed by the Merthyr Tydfil Borough Police in November 1947. She joined the force in the footsteps of her father who was serving as a police constable at the time.
Born and raised in the Dowlais area of Merthyr, Ceridwen was just twenty-four when she joined the police service. Despite being the youngest of the first four women appointed by our predecessor forces, Ceridwen was an experienced head on young shoulders. Five years previous in 1942 she left home to study at the Bristol School of Aircraft. Whilst there she was the youngest trainee of 250 other women - but finished at the top of her class after averaging 97% in her examinations. During the Second World War she served as an Aircraft Examiner before being promoted to Inspector in charge.
Ceridwen Davies is stood fourth from the left. Women’s Police Conference, Aberystwyth, 1949.
Shortly after her appointment by the Merthyr force, Ceridwen was sent for training in Coventry. It was there where she earnt the respect of her instructors, who marked her conduct as Exemplary after her training finished in February 1948.
Once sent out for duty, it wasn’t long before Ceridwen was also earning the respect of those around her. In October 1948, she was by praised by local magistrates for the manner in which she confidently gave evidence at a juvenile court. This notable commendation was endorsed by her peers who passed it onto the Chief Constable in December 1948. Ceridwen Davies resigned from police duties in the summer of 1949 – but her legacy in being the first female police officer of Merthyr Tydfil continues.
Elsie Joan Baldwin
In March 1948, Elsie Joan Baldwin from Porthkerry was appointed the first female police officer of the Glamorgan Constabulary.
Prior to joining the force and during the Second World War, Elsie served in Liverpool and Reading with the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Her duties involved escorting Prisoners of War to the Isle of Wight.
Elsie Joan Baldwin in 1948.
Three years after the end of the War, Elsie was carrying out different duties as a police officer of Glamorgan. Most of her service was carried out in Bridgend. While in the role, Elsie was remembered to have undertaken several duties, some of which left an impression on her. During her service, Elsie attended incidents at local psychiatric institutions and was frequently called to scenes involving women and children. While she later looked back on her service with pride, she also openly admitted to finding her duties challenging. Her daughter, April, later recalled how her mother spoke about the worst part of her job, which involved the recovery of bodies of the deceased.
A mentally and physically strong woman, Elsie Joan Baldwin would also defy convention in her personal life. Meeting her partner in 1955, they would then go on to have two children – Richard and April – before deciding to marry in 1970. After her husband’s passing just twelve months later, Elsie faced the challenge of raising two children as a single mother. According to Richard and April, their mother was equal to the challenge and several years after her passing in 1995 they described her as “a very caring and loving mother who had always been there, and was very proud to have been in the force”. Elsie never remarried.
These four women unknowingly paved the way for so many female police officers of the future. Their duties and positive contributions to policing and to communities across south Wales will never be forgotten.