Women in the RCMP

Women have made significant contributions to the RCMP over the years, whether as police officers, civilian personnel or spouses of police officers.

In the 1890s, the Force employed women as matrons and jailers to deal with female offenders or to be part of an escort when female prisoners were moved from one place to another.

One of these women was Katherine Ryan (aka Klondike Kate), who was hired February 5, 1900 at the Whitehorse Detachment in the Northwest Territories to assist the North-West Mounted Police with the care of female prisoners. She was the first woman hired by the RCMP as a special constable.

In the early 1900s, women were hired as fingerprint and lab technicians. In 1946, Dr. Frances McGill, often referred to as the first woman Mountie, was appointed as the Force's first honourary surgeon.

Between 1922 and 1942, she was director of the Saskatchewan forensic identification lab and was associated with the Force for many years in the fields of medical science, forensic medicine and pathology.

Throughout the force's history, the spouses of police officers also performed a range of duties to support operations in one- and two-man isolated posts. Their duties ranged from answering phones and taking complaints to searching female offenders and providing meals to prisoners, as well as providing lodging and meals to visiting officials.

On May 23, 1974, Commissioner M.J. Nadon announced that the RCMP would begin accepting applications from women for regular police duties. Recruited from across the country, the first troop of 32 female police officers, Troop 17, arrived at Depot (the training academy), in Regina, Sask., on September 18 and 19, 1974 to begin training, graduating on March 3, 1975.

Today, approximately one fifth of the RCMP's police officers (also known as regular members) are women, with more and more women in the senior ranks (inspector and above). The RCMP's first female commissioner was Bev Busson, who took the helm of the force in 2006. For more firsts, visit our features page.

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