Sunday, 1 December 2019

The first woman to

be a policewoman in this state was also the first female police constable in the world to be granted the same powers as a male constable. 
It cannot have been easy for her. She was not given any instruction  but had to educate herself by reading the law books.
Perhaps it was that and her experiences which led her to try and help children in trouble, particularly girls. She had homeless girls living in her own home. Later there was a home for unmarried mothers and their babies at a time when unmarried mothers were, more often than not, completely ostracised. 
The home was still there when I was in my teens and through teacher training college. I had to visit it on more than one occasion because, almost inevitably, many of the girls had low literacy and numeracy skills. 
I met one of the former residents recently. I didn't recognise her but she recognised me. 
   "You didn't really have anything to do with me. I always like to read."
When she reminded me I remembered the very quiet girl who had  been raped by a stranger on her way home from school. Everything about that situation should have turned this woman into a psychiatric basket case. Her intensely cult-like religious family turned her out. Her baby died the day he was born. Other things happened to her that should not happen to anyone. She hasn't married but I saw her recently.
    "I wanted to be a nurse but I didn't have the stamina. I love history though so I managed to get a bonded scholarship to teach. I was in college the year after you left. I spent a couple of years in the state system but then I was offered a job in PNG. I was there for three years and then came back and went into the private system - ended up last year. Since then I have been doing some genealogical research."
That surprised me. I wondered if she was in contact with her family again. It isn't the sort of question you can ask but she answered it without that,
     "I wanted to find out more about the woman who founded the place," she told me, meaning the home she had been sent to on getting raped.
She told me a little, including the woman's place of birth. When she told me the place and the date a little piece of my mother's likely family history fell into place. Her father lost his father when he was very young. On the day of his death the family was helped by a young police woman - we know this from the only letter to have survived. It mentions that the policewoman knew the family as she had come from the same small town.
I told her this and she smiled,
    "That sounds just like her."
It isn't something we can prove but it is almost certain and it is a tiny link to a woman who did so much for women in need. I wonder what my maternal great-grandmother made of her?

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