Today marks the centenary of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1918 yet it also marks a significant event in Ayrshire too. The Burgh of Ayr Minutes of Corporation and Committees show that 100 years ago on the 6th February 1918, the decision was made to appoint a female to the Ayr Burgh police force for the first time. This was the outcome of a meeting of the Works Committee at the request of the Vigilance and Rescue Society. Throughout Scotland during this time, it was believed that the appointment of a small number of policewomen would be beneficial to the police force. The female contribution to police work which was demonstrated during the First World War, primarily through rescue work and voluntary patrols helped to achieve this.
Mrs Sutherland was subsequently appointed for the position. Although she would be supported by the “authority of the police,” she was not to be sworn in as a police constable, but recognized as an auxiliary member of the force. However during this period, female members of the police were to undertake tasks that were believed to be suited to their gender, in particular working in the interests of women and children . They were also subject to separate rules and regulations which became the Police (Women) (Scotland) Act and not the Police (Scotland) Act, 1890 which affected other employees of the police.
Although the appointment of Mrs Sutherland was significant as it was a paid position for a female under the Ayr Burgh police, Minutes of the Finance Committee have highlighted issues Mrs Sutherland had in relation to her income. Her story highlights the achievements and struggles women faced during the early twentieth century in the drive for equal rights.