The Red Wall: A Woman in the RCMP.
Sometimes it is very easy to forget just how far women have come in modern Canadian society. Today we expect to see female doctors, pilots, and police officers as a matter of course. But, not so long ago something that today feels as commonplace as a female Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer would have been an odd sight, for women were not accepted into the RCMP until 1974 (only 35 years ago). Jane Hall was one of the RCMP’s first female recruits. After graduating from Queen’s University with a B.A. and a B.Ed., Hall joined the RCMP in 1977. The Red Wall is Hall’s story of what it was like to be one of the first females to go through Depot (or RCMP cadet training) to her retirement in 1998.
The RCMP decided to allow women to join as members (the RCMP term for its officers) because, “In the absence of any empirical evidence to the contrary, the assumption had to be that females would be capable of performing all of the diversified duties in the Force equal to males.” The standards for female recruits were almost identical to those of male recruits (excluding the height requirement, which was based on the national average height for women at the time). This progressive attitude at the policy level, however, did not always extend to the rank and file. But, to Hall’s credit, the negative aspects of being one of the first female RCMP members does not unnecessarily colour her story. Most of the negative encounters are told with a nostalgic tint and a hint of humour.
The balancing act that Hall, and her other female colleagues, performed was a difficult one. They had to match their male colleagues in everyway, but could not copy or become them. They had to forge their own way in an organization that has a long history and a deep tradition, an organization that embodies the Canadian identity, and an organization that was made better for their inclusion.