At a recent event celebrating a hundred years of women in policing the Home Secretary Theresa May said, "Police forces must boost their ranks of female officers as they tackle the 'changing face of crime' ".

Today women make up 28.8% of officers in Dorset, above the national average of 28.2%. Currently there are 370 female officers compared to 916 male officers.

The first policewoman in Britain was Edith Smith, a former midwife and member of the Women Police Service, a voluntary organisation founded the year before. Edith's main duty was to patrol the streets of Grantham and deal with prostitutes involved with brawling off duty soldiers.

Helen Court was Dorset's first female police officer in 1937, transferring from Bristol Constabulary.

Bournemouth,then in the county of Hampshire, didn't have any female officers until the 1940s. In the 1930s the council had heated debates on the subject.

An Echo report in 1934 said, "The appointment of women police had been the desire of the National Council of Women for many years, but there seemed to be a great dislike of women police in the borough of Bournemouth".

During the war when men were away fighting and women had to undertake male roles, some joined the Women's Police Auxiliary Corps and patrolled the streets of Bournemouth and Poole.

In 1948 Bournemouth formed its own borough police force on separation from its parent body of the Hampshire Constabulary. The first Chief Constable was Sydney Bennett and the numerical strength was 205 police officers, of whom only four were women. Police headquarters were Dean Park Road with divisional stations at Madeira Road and Gloucester Road, Boscombe.

Two of the new recruits at Bournemouth were P.C. Richard Ford and his wife W.P.C. Mary Ford from the Gloucestershire Constabulary. Mary left the force the following year and later became a road safety officer in Guildford.

Ann Parnaby ( nee Sheriff ) joined Bournemouth Borough Police after completing police training at Millmeece and then Ryton-on-Dunsmere in Staffordshire in the late 1950s.

"I had already done my nursing and midwifery training and wanted to do something different and the police force seemed an attractive challenge", said Ann who still lives locally.

"I was one of six female police officers at Bournemouth under the instruction of Sgt Joan de Pledge. We primarily had to deal with women and children in trouble, as well as doing crossing and traffic duties and escorting female prisoners from court to Holloway prison, usually by train, after they were convicted".

Ann also took part and won lifesaving competitions at Tuckton, Hamworthy and Bournemouth Pier Approach against other police forces in the south. She left the police force in the mid 1960s after marrying a policeman and later returned to private nursing.

In 1967 Bournemouth police joined Dorset as part of a national policy. It wasn't until the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 that women could do exactly the same job as the men, instead of limited caring and clerical roles. Six year later policewomen recruits could be trained for the first time at Dorset's Regional police Training Centre at Chantmarle.

In 1979 Poole police cadet Susan Stone was presented with the Collins Award as the outstanding Dorset Police Cadet of the Year.

Policewomen were also being recognised for their bravery as in the case of WPC Michelle Tighe from Wareham who was awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct in 1981 after she helped trap a sex attacker in Bristol.

And the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher from Semley, near Shaftesbury, outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984, brought home how dangerous and unpredictable police work could be, regardless of gender.

In 1989 policewomen from Hong Kong visited Madiera Road police station in Bournemouth to brush up their English and improve their career prospects.

Poole home beat officers Emma Mann and Bridget Longhorn were among a handful of police women to have training with Dorset firearms squad in the1990s, not to become armed officers themselves but to have the knowledge to deal with any given situation.

Policewomen were beginning to rise in the ranks and get promoted to the top jobs. In 1974 Susan Gospel became Dorset's first female police superintendent, and then the county's first woman chief superintendent.

Sue Davies became Bournemouth's first female divisional commander in 1991 before being promoted to Assistant Chief Constable at Bramshill. She was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in 1993 and a year later became the country's first ever female Deputy Chief Constable. Four years later Sue was made the Chief Commandant of Dorset's Special Constabulary.

In 1999 Jane Stichbury became Dorset's first female Chief Constable and continued in this role until 2004. The current Chief Constable for Dorset is Debbie Simpson, she was appointed in 2013.