Britain’s First Policewoman

Britain’s First Policewoman

At the height of World War I, the jail in the Guildhall was resurrected and the first female officer to have full powers of arrest, Edith Smith, joined the Grantham force and was based there.

Mrs Smith’s role was in part prompted by the billeting of 14,000 soldiers in the area, which led to an increase of prostitutes and related trouble.
One report sheet for 1917 gives a flavour of her duties, recording “Foolish girls warned”, “Prostitutes sent out of Grantham” and “Soldiers’ wives visited, some cautioned and others had allowances stopped”.

Edith left the force in 1918 after working seven days a week for two years. Five years later, she took a fatal dose of the pain-killer morphia.
She is still held in high regard in the town – the walkway leading into the Guildhall now bears her name ‘Edith Smith Way’ and a life-sized cut-out of Edith stands in front of the coffee shop door and the entrance to the cells.


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