Search to find family of pioneering Yorkshire female police officer

Former Superintendent Winnie Bishop was the first female Superintendent in South Yorkshire Police
Former Superintendent Winnie Bishop was the first female Superintendent in South Yorkshire Police
0
Have your say

The search continues to trace relatives of a pioneering Yorkshire police officer who helped women across the county who were being exploited in brothels.

Former Superintendent Winnie Bishop was the first female Superintendent in South Yorkshire Police, and one of the first female PCs to join the force over 70 years ago.

Former Superintendent Winnie Bishop was the first female Superintendent in South Yorkshire Police

Former Superintendent Winnie Bishop was the first female Superintendent in South Yorkshire Police

Her funeral took place in Sheffield on Wednesday and was attended by representatives from the South Yorkshire force, but sadly no known relatives of Miss Bishop have been identified and now the search is on to help trace anyone who might have known her.

Winifred Annie, Winnie, or Miss Bishop as she was known to her former friends and colleagues, was born on January 5 1920 in Doncaster.

She spent her early life growing up with her parents Annie and Henry Bishop. Her father was a builder, who idolised his daughter and encouraged her to do anything she wanted.

Her first career was as a nurse, but policing was to be her true vocation.

Winnie Bishop

Winnie Bishop

She first joined the Women’s Police Auxiliary in Doncaster. In those early days it was so different, with women not having the full powers of Police Constable, such as no power of arrest.

Miss Bishop hadn’t planned to join the police, but had gone along to offer support to a female friend who was thinking of joining up. The friend did not get accepted, but she was invited to apply and got accepted.

Read more: Police release update as Libby Squire murder investigation continues
In 1946 she was to be one of the first two members of the Women’s Police Auxiliary who were accepted as a full Police Constable in Doncaster.

Little is known about PC Bishop’s early career, given the absence of written records and the death of many of her contemporaries in the years since she retired, but she did receive a Chief Constable’s Commendation dealing with the exploitation of women in brothels.

Winnie Bishop receiveda Chief Constables Commendation dealing with the exploitation of women in brothels.

Winnie Bishop receiveda Chief Constables Commendation dealing with the exploitation of women in brothels.

She also spent some time in London during her policing career and spoke about acting as protection for the actor Rita Hayworth and, on occasions, the children of the Queen.

After serving as a PC, Miss Bishop was promoted to Sergeant in Doncaster. But, the glamour of policing in the big city beckoned, so in 1956 she accepted promotion to the rank of Inspector on transfer to Sheffield City Police.

Further promotions followed, placing her as the officer in charge of the policewomen’s department in Sheffield City Police, which then became Sheffield and Rotherham Constabulary and latterly, South Yorkshire Police.

Read more: Arsonist jailed after starting catastrophic Ilkley Moor fire 'because he was cold'
Today’s police officers may be surprised, but Miss Bishop would ensure a tape measure was always to hand, to check that a female police officer’s skirt was an appropriate length from ground to the hem. She also liked to make sure that lace-up shoes only had four lace holes, not three or five.

Former Superintendent Winnie Bishop was the first female Superintendent in South Yorkshire Police

Former Superintendent Winnie Bishop was the first female Superintendent in South Yorkshire Police

Miss Bishop was awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to policing and a photograph exists of her displaying the medal in company with her mother. She also received a Long Service Award while she was Chief Inspector.

Miss Bishop was eventually promoted to Superintendent, the first female officer in South Yorkshire Police to achieve this rank. After her retirement in 1976, she continued to live in Sheffield.

For a period, she would go and speak at schools and colleges about her career in policing.

Miss Bishop moved herself into a care home in 2013, after recognising that her health and vision were not what they had been. She had to carry out her own inspection of its service and facilities first though. She maintained her high standards and the staff were happy to accept her wish to be called Miss Bishop, unless they were held in true affection and then they were allowed to call her Miss B.

Read more: Thousands of children growing up "living in shipping containers and office blocks"
Many of the female officers who joined in the 1960s and early 1970s were aware of Miss Bishop, as she either interviewed them for the police service or ‘advised’ them on their appearance during or after training.

Miss Bishop was a true pioneer for women in policing, receiving prestigious accolades and faithfully serving the public for over 30 years. She would have been 100 next year, but sadly passed away last month in her care home.

Winnie Bishop's medals.

Winnie Bishop's medals.

South Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Lauren Poultney said: “Winnie Bishop was a pioneer for women in policing in our area, Winnie and women like her paved the way for the opportunities in policing that exist for women today.

“I cannot begin to imagine the challenges she faced, and the stereotypes attributed to her from the 1940s when she joined, until she retired in the 1970s.

“I have enjoyed hearing about Winnie through others, she sounds like a phenomenal woman who remained a fierce advocate of policing for the rest of her life. I am sorry that I never met her in life, I think she would have been fabulous company with many a tale to tell.

“I am grateful for her long and healthy life and for her service to policing.”