Forty years ago, thirty-two women from across Canada were anxiously waiting to be sworn in as the first female Mounties. That summer, they quit their jobs, moved out of their apartments, packed their belongings, and said goodbye to their families as they prepared to be sworn in as regular members of the police force and enter the RCMP’s training academy.
The swearing-in ceremonies, scheduled for 16 September 1974, were being carefully orchestrated by the RCMP. Plans were underway to swear the women in simultaneously across the country and across time zones, all under the watchful eye of the media.
The ceremonies were just the beginning of the media’s fascination with female Mounties. News outlets from across the country and around the world captured the women taking their oath of office and, later, going through training at the academy. In the 1970s, Canadians were unsure of whether women were capable of performing police duties. It was an unknown that journalists capitalized on to illustrate the changing role of women in Canadian society.
As the fortieth anniversary date of the hiring of women as Mounties approaches, we should reflect on the significance of this historical event. The first female Mounties did not consider themselves trailblazers who were breaking ground for women’s rights in Canada. But they made an important contribution toward changing how Canadians thought about women’s place in society, even if they were not aware of it at the time.