Police Women of Oswestry
In the ‘Shropshire Constabulary Standing Committee Minute Book’, (Shropshire Archives), the events in the long hard struggle to persuade the Shropshire Constabulary to take on police women are played out.
On 1 December 1917, WH Lambert, Archdeacon of Shropshire wrote a long letter listing 10 reasons why women should be employed – especially in areas where military camps were located. However, this was totally dismissed by the Committee.
Pressure mounted and on 12 October 1918, the Committee finally agreed to take on 2 women to help Police Oswestry. A letter was sent to the Police Women’s Department in London to help recruit the right woman and it was via this route that Anna Westerdick came to Oswestry in November 1918. Pressure from the Home Office to employ women and an offer to help with the cost may have swayed the Committee.
Their work as Police Constables was well respected and after the war ended, both Westerdick and Lenn were retained by Shropshire Constabulary. However, by April 1922, the force needed to make cuts and the women were top of the list for dismissal. The only other local police women – in Whitchurch – were sacked. The town of Oswestry did not want to lose their women officers and both the Town Council and the Oswestry branch of the National Council of Women wrote letters of support, asking to keep the officers and offering to pay half of their salary. They were retained and both women continued to live and work in Oswestry.
Lillian Lenn retired in 1938 and died in Oswestry on 28 August 1952. In her will she left her estate to Anna Westerdick. Anna died aged 83 in 1967. She had continued to work as a WPC well into World War Two and had been promoted to Seargent.
They were the only police women in Shropshire from 1922 until 1942 when the force was ordered by the Government to employ women officers.
Click through the images to read extracts regarding women police officers from the Shropshire Constabulary minute book….