Kapiti News - 2021-10-13


Trailblazer for women in NZ police turns 100

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Rosalie Willis

While she was a policewoman for only four years, Marie Storey has spent her lifetime following the evolution of women in policing after joining the third intake of women into the force. Turning 100 last week, celebrations included a party at Ka¯piti Uniting Church with friends and family, complete with a police car delicately printed onto the icing of the birthday cake. Joining the police from 1943-1947, Marie signed up after hearing her father, a senior sergeant, talking about watching history being made after seeing the first group of women sworn in in 1941. “Ten women joined in 1941, they were the first intake of women,” Marie said. “Twelve women joined in 1942, and in 1943 I joined. “It was a very different world back then, we didn’t have uniforms, it was wartime and there could be problems.” Women joining the police had been talked of for years, but as Marie said, “It was very much a men’s establishment. “Some of the reasons they held were that they thought women could not be of value. “But as war approached there was more thought being given to women and what they could do. “My father was a senior sergeant in the police and the editor of the Police Gazette. “He came home one night saying he had seen history being made in New Zealand.” The first group of women had been sworn in as police officers. “He said they were a group of very fine young women, and I decided that’s what I wanted to be.” Some months later Marie saw an advertisement calling for new recruits. While her father died just before she joined, her application was accepted and she went through three months of training. “Then it was out to learn what you didn’t know on the street. “You had to be very resilient and quick. “Some of the men didn’t want to know us, others were just like, ‘well we have policewomen now, let’s just get on with the job,’ and then there were those that actually put themselves out to help.” Much of Marie’s time was spent patrolling parks and community areas along with jobs that concerned women and children. Female officers were also used as decoys to catch male predators, but the women also had to have their wits about them around their male colleagues. Finishing a late shift one Sunday evening, Marie asked the constable on duty in the watch house to order her a taxi. “When the taxi driver arrived he had two other customers he was dropping off first, and then heading for her home in Karori he asked her if she had been bailed out. “I was absolutely appalled. “At a later date, I found that that the young constable had put him up to it. “I found out early on that we had to be on our alert for pranksters, but it made for an interesting life.” With no uniforms until 1952, 10 years after women joined, Marie has followed the changes for women in the force since she left due to pregnancy. “Police didn’t approve of married women in the job so when I got back after being married I had to apply for my job back. But as soon as I became pregnant I had to leave. “I’ve maintained interest in the police and what they’ve been doing since.” Marie is proud of the way women have contributed to the police force. “Policing to a certain degree has had to change because society has changed. “I really admire women that take policing on. “These days they’ve got more than what we had to deal with, but there’s also a lot more support for them and their families.” After leaving the police to have her daughter, Marie got a part-time job at a jeweller. Living in Auckland by this time, she found more and more women were working because of the war and its after-effects. A job at an intermediate school office was a highlight. “There have been so many highlights in my life including having four grandchildren and four greatgrandchildren. “I’ve always had a strong church affiliation, my young days as a child were great, I enjoyed outdoor activity, working for the police, and my job at the intermediate school. “I just generally enjoyed helping people and having contact with a variety of people.” As for what she has to say to those younger than her, Marie said all situations are not permanent so enjoy the good ones. “My father said to me once, whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability and no one can ask more of you.”


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