Former policewoman pens book about life on the beat in the 1960s
- Credit: Simon Parkin
When Lois Willoughby-Easter joined the police aged 19 she was one of the few female recruits. Sexism was rife, the beat meant being on your own without a radio, the job took you undercover in Soho strip clubs and police men and women had different roles.
This very different time for females on the thin blue line is now recalled in a new book, A Girl in Blue: Memoirs of a Metropolitan Woman Police Officer 1967-73, written by the former policewoman, who lives in Shelfanger, near Diss.
The memoir, published by Mango Books, who specialise in non-fiction about crime and the police, details how she emerged from a dysfunctional early life in Bermondsey and was inspired to join the Met when her sister married a policeman.
'I was only 19 when I went straight from school into the police,' she said. 'Women were very much a minority. In my class in training school there were only five of us with 15 men.'
After training school, she was posted to Romford in Essex. Life on the beat in what was known as K-Division was done with no radios or body armour just a whistle and a truncheon. And being a female officer meant being in the minority in a macho dominated culture.
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Mrs Willoughby-Easter, 71, said: 'There was a lot of sexism and bullying but you had to learn to deal with it.'
The roles of male and female officers were also very different as she discovered when she was assigned to Soho. 'I did six months going into clubs undercover to do observations to see what was going on that was illegal. Then the strip clubs or brothels would be raided,' she said. 'Only one woman at a time was only ever seconded to what they called the 'clubs office', everyone else was a man.'
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However the role of female officers serving with the Met Police changed forever in 1973 when the Sex Discrimination Act was passed leading to integration with male counterparts; WPCs became PCs, equal in every way except gender.
Though this was meant to be a breakthrough for equality it was not universally welcomed by women officers who saw it was losing their specialist roles.
'In 1973 when I left it was really the end of an era,' said Mrs Willoughby-Easter. 'During my service we had continual training about how to deal with children and young people and the men couldn't do it because they hadn't had the training.
'If someone came into the station and said they had been raped it was women officers that took the statements. We arranged for women to be examined or if there was a child in need of care and protection it was women officers that did it. The men didn't have any idea how to do it.' Mrs Willoughby-Easter, who subsequently became a teacher, moved to Norfolk with her husband James after she retired. She took three years to write her book having attended creative writing classes.
'I was fortunate that during my career in the police I had kept diaries so I was able to call upon them,' she explains. 'That was a great help because it all happened a very long time ago.'