A PIECE of history was brought to life thanks to a group of female West Midlands Police officers and staff who recreated an iconic photo from almost 100 years ago.
The original image − unearthed from the Police vaults − is believed to have been taken in 1919 and is the first depicting Birmingham Police’s Women’s Department.
Women officers were first recruited in 1917 − with lock-up matrons Rebecca Lipscombe, who was aged 60 at the time, and 54-year-old Evelyn Miles being the pioneers − and by 1919 the unit had grown to ten.
As part of the force’s centenary celebrations of women in policing, a group of present day officers and staff have been photographed in period police costume in the historic cell block beneath Birmingham’s Steelhouse Lane police station.
West Midlands Police museum volunteer Corinne Brazier − who appears in the recreation − said: “The original photo is really special to me, it shows a group of women who made history by becoming the first WPCs in the region.
“That achievement can’t be overstated. They were the first to step into a male dominated profession, would have had to overcome obstacles and doubters, but made a great contribution and paved the way for thousands more to follow in their footsteps.
“We thought recreating that iconic picture would be a nice way to celebrate women in policing − and it was fitting to have the photo taken in the Birmingham lock-up where Rebecca and Evelyn started their careers more than 100 years earlier.”
Corinne wore the actual uniform used by WMP Ellen Vernon in 1919 and which now hangs in the force’s museum, while colleagues donned other period police uniforms and hats to look the part − even though most were originally designed for male officers.
She added: “It wasn’t exactly a tailor-made fit, it was quite uncomfortable and rough compared to today’s soft, synthetic materials. I certainly wouldn’t have fancied working an entire shift wearing that uniform.”
Fellow museum volunteer, Inspector Steve Rice, even spent some of his spare time replicating a distinctive, studded chair on which Sergeant Evelyn Miles is pictured sitting on in the original photograph.
Police historians have used archive files and officer records to identify all but two of the women in the original picture; the names of the final two mystery women have been found but it’s unclear exactly who is who.