Mary Adelaide Hare
Mary Hare, one time referred to as the ‘Lady Chief of Women Police Volunteers in Brighton’ is far better known for her pioneering work with deaf children and as the inspiration for a number of schools that continue her philosophy into the 21st Century. We are deeply indebted to the work of Victor Markham and the corroborative research of Dr Derek Oakenson, both of whom provide the sound historical basis for this piece.
Mary Adelaide Hare (1860-1945)
Mary was born in London one of nine children whose father was an engraver. In 1883 she opened a small school for deaf and dumb children. Her view was that such children did not need protection in ‘asylums’ but rather an education. By 1906 she had moved to Brighton and established a co-educational Private Oral School for Deaf Children taking mixed pupils of all ages from across the country. In 1946 the school moved to larger premises in Sussex, then Berkshire, where the Mary Hare Grammar School for the Deaf still operates in her name.
Whilst in Brighton she lived first at 17 St Michael’s Place, then 19 Goldsmid Road and later moved to 8 San Remo (on Kingsway, Hove seafront).
In 1907 Mary became a member of the Women’s Freedom League, better known to us as the suffragettes.The Brighton Gazette of 1908 reports that she chaired a Women’s Social & Political Union meeting on Queen’s Road where she ‘boasted’ that suffragettes ‘were going to rouse Brighton’.
In 1911 many suffragettes spoiled their census papers in protest against the government’s rejection of their demands. Mary spoilt her census form with the words,
‘Women don’t count therefore they will not be counted!’
In 1913 she became secretary of the Brighton Women’s Freedom League, which campaigned for sexual equality.
In 1914 the Headmistresses’ Association suggested the formation of a female police force to control the behaviour of young women. It’s possible that Mary as a Headmistress, may have been a member of this association.
Perhaps inspired by the efforts of Margaret Damer Dawson and Nina Boyle, Mary took the law into her own hands in 1915 and set up a uniformed women’s police force much gainst the wishes of the local constabulary as she felt there was a need for a female force to assist Brighton and Hove’s vulnerable women and children. An article in the Brighton, Hove & South Sussex Graphic entitled Bobby, the Woman Policeman gives a sympathetic account of her work and describes Mary as looking particularly smart in her uniform and bowler hat.
Brighton Herald 1915
WOMEN POLICE VOLUNTEERS
Women police have recently made their appearance in Brighton and Hove. In their neat uniforms of dark blue serge and their distinctive hats (the very hallmark of authority), they present a very smart appearance, and they look so attractive that you feel you would not at all mind being arrested by them. But if you don’t go quietly look at for yourself; for these athletic ladies have learned the noble art of ju-jitsu. One is not sure, however, that the women police are not armed with authority to arrest, as they have not yet been recognised in official quarters. The chief reason for their formation is to give help to women and children.
Brighton Herald 1915
Women Patrols and Women Police
It is important that the public should clearly understand the distinction between Women Patrols and Women Police. Women Patrol are a body of ladies acting under official recognition. The Women Police Volunteers are an entirely independent and unauthorised body, composed in part, if not entirely, of Suffragettes. The Women Patrols, consisting of ladies of position in the town, are unrecognisable in the streets. They wear no distinguishing badge, but they do hold from the Chief Constable a document recognising them as a duly constituted element in the police service. The Women Police Volunteers hold no authority of this kind, but they are distinguishable by their attire, consisting of a dark blue costume, with low crowned bowler hat, similar to a ladies riding hat, and on their shoulder the metal letters W.P.
How accurate these newspaper reports are, and how accurately they reflect public opinion of the time is hard to assess. Dr Derek Oakensen of the Old Police Cells Museum, Brighton has searched the Brighton and Hove Watch Committee and the printed Annual Reports to the Home Office and found no supporting evidence. ‘I’ve gone back through copious notes made of the Hove Borough Watch Committee minutes during WW1 and have found that they didn’t mention the Women’s Police Volunteers once. They weren’t mentioned in the printed Annual Reports sent to the Home Office either.’
Mary Hare died in 1945.
Historical Consultant David Rowland
Victor L Markham A History of Miss Mary Hare
Dr Derek Oakenson Old Police Cells Museum
Anna Kisby Brighton History Centre