"Wolves guarding sheep": How Women Police in London and Cape Town Brokered a Deal to Protect and Control Women, 1914-1918

Title"Wolves guarding sheep": How Women Police in London and Cape Town Brokered a Deal to Protect and Control Women, 1914-1918
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLaird, Katie
Academic DepartmentHistory
DegreeMA
Number of Pages79
Date Published08/2016
UniversityThe University of Utah
CitySalt Lake City
Abstract

At the outbreak of World War I, women in Britain and South Africa formed groups of volunteer police women who patrolled the streets for indecent behavior, found homes for runaway children, and encouraged moral behavior of young women and girls. Despite their success at penetrating one of the most male-dominated professions, historians almost unanimously regard the movement as a betrayal of feminist values and goals. A careful reading of contemporary sources, however, reveals that the women police were attempting to work within the system to better the lives of females. With the movement headed by social purity feminists, a group now largely decried as antifeminist for their conservative and protectionist agendas, the approach was rather to protect women from the full impact of sexist laws, as opposed to actually changing those laws. These women saw the prevention of immoral behavior as not simply an imposition of conservative middle class values, but an expedient measure to protect females from a justice system whose very structure was designed to find them guilty. Feminists tend to discount social purists’ impact on the modern feminist movement, but the transnational presence of the women police, as shown by this thesis’ study of the Cape Town group, reminds scholars that the feminist movement has always been riddled with ambivalence and dilemmas. This thesis demonstrates that the social purity movement was a force to be reckoned with, and succeeded where suffragists had failed in opening the door to women in law enforcement.

URLhttps://search.proquest.com/openview/7fe8ce9cabda578f32ca3f34ec32bc17/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
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