Street Walking

 female police

Female police officers like these from the early 1920s walked the streets to keep them safe for women, but also to deter other women from street walking. It was generally working-class women whose freedom to walk the streets was challenged in this way.

During the First World War, public spaces were beginning to be patrolled by women police.  The National Union of Women Workers (NUWW)  organised women’s patrols in parks, stations and on the streets with the aim of rescuing and befriending vulnerable girls.

The Women’s Police Service (WPS) was formed largely by many ex-radical suffrage campaigners. One of the aims of the WPS was to look for ‘dangerous’ women and challenge ‘courting couples’.

DORA, The Defence of the Realm Act war time emergency legislation could be particularly punitive to woman on the streets of Cardiff. Women of ‘bad reputations’ were banned from going outside between 7pm and 6am.  All women in Cardiff were banned for a time from pubs in Cardiff between 7pm and 6am.

Some women were arrested under this law and tried at a military court martial which resulted in a sentence of 62 days in prison.
By 1916, it was an offence for any woman convicted of prostitution or vagrancy related offences to be close to military camps. ‘Khaki fever’ was thought to be rampant in Britain. The NUWW argued that  ‘the girlhood of the country was thrown off its balance’ which was thought to ‘result in leading them into grave moral danger’.
 Walking streets/Street walking – more complicated than you may think.
Reblogged from

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by ladyflowersbysusan on March 15, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    Great article!

    I had the very great privilege of volunteering with Dallas’ Prostitute Diversion Initiative. A police administrator was married to a Social Science Professor. She helped him to understand that prostitutes are victims, not criminals.

    One night a month, the PDI goes to one of the truck stops in south Dallas. They make a circle of four huge vehicles. One has volunteers; one is the police command center; one is a Parkland Hospital Mobile Health Unit and one has a judge and courtroom.

    The police arrest suspected prostitutes; the Parkland health team assesses her (or him) health wise. Then the mental health/addictions team comes in. One member of the team is a former prostitute that was helped out of “the life” by the PDI. Finally the arrested prostitute sees the judge.

    The judge offers the prostitute a diversion program that includes mental health and addiction treatment. If the prostitute enters the diversion, a 90 day residential treatment program, the court case is put on hold. If the prostitute completes treatment, the case is expunged.

    I worked with the program for a time and then they got their own full time psychiatrist so I was not needed anymore.

    The Prostitute Diversion Initiative is an amazing, life-giving program.


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