Our first female police officers

Looking back, the very first female police officers were appointed in 1917.

Helen Dugdale and Laura Chipper
The first female police officers Helen Dugdale (left) and Laura Chipper (right) were appointed in 1917.

The very first female police officers were appointed in 1917, after Colonial Secretary instructs the Commissioner of Police that Cabinet desire the employment of two women police.

On 18 August 1917 Helen Dugdale was enrolled as a Probationary Constable in the 'Women's Police Unit' - a first for the then titled State Police Force. Mrs Dugdale, a widow, was an Inspector with the State Children's Department prior to her appointment.

On 1 September 1917 Laura Chipper is enrolled as a second Probationary Constable. Miss Chipper’s previous occupation was the matron of a rescue home. She serves at Perth for a short time before being transferred to Fremantle in December 1918.

Instead of frontline duties, these two pioneering officers were directed to look after the moral welfare of women and children, particularly young girls. Their job was to patrol parks, entertainment areas and slum neighbourhoods, and ‘anywhere else that women and children might be found’.

Traditionally carrying a handbag and wearing hats and gloves, women were issued with an official WA Police uniform in the 1970s.

Thankfully times have changed, and female police officers now proudly stand side-by-side their male counterparts with the agency proudly showcasing a strong representation of women at senior ranks and levels.

Do you, or someone you know have photographs, memorabilia or a good story that you could share with us to help piece our policing women’s journey together.?

To share your story, email Women in Policing.