PC Edith Smith




Edith Smith was born near Birkenhead in 1876. She married William Smith and so kept her family name. William died in 1907 leaving Edith with the care of their three daughters and one son James. Her life turned upside down and the 1911 census shows her training as a pupil midwife in London. Her daughters were living with relatives but her son was in an orphanage near Blackburn.

The outbreak of war in 1914 gave women the opportunity to become involved in policing. Mrs Smith had been trained in London and was described by a colleague as ‘a woman of outstanding personality, fearless, motherly and adaptable’.

On 17 December 1915 Chief Constable Casburn signed Edith Smith’s warrant card and she received the power of arrest, becoming the first full WPC receiving 28s (£1.40) per week. In June 1916 Edith was working alone in the town. She did rescue work among women and girls, saving many cases from coming to court. Indeed although she handled hundreds of cases there is no record of her ever having to arrest anyone. However, she took no holidays, had no days off and worked nights with no overtime. By the end of 1917 Edith was tired out and she resigned in January 1918.

Edith moved to Runcorn in Cheshire to work for a nursing association, but died from a self-induced overdose of morphine on 28 June 1923. We do not know the background to this.

The Civic Society erected a Blue plaque on the wall of the original police cells in Edith Smith Way between the Guildhall and the Museum. It was unveiled on 19 October 2014 by our most senior lady policewoman DCC Heather Roach, who started her own police career in Grantham. In December 2015 Home Secretary Teresa May marked 100 years from the signing of
Edith’s warrant card by paying tribute to her when she apologised that her own department had first challenged the appointment of female police officers.

Edith’s family are very proud of her and we are in happy contact with grandaughter Margaret.