When they started out as police officers in 1918, they had no powers of arrest and were not deemed worthy of being issued personal protective equipment.
But more than 80 years later, women police officers occupy the most senior positions at forces up and down the country.
As part of a series looking at the role that females have played in the force, West Midlands Police has released a collection of photographs from the past eight decades.
One shows a group of 17 women officers, believed to be among the first to have worn the uniform in the region.
Another, taken some time between 1918 and 1920, shows a matron at the central lock-up in Birmingham.
From 1850 onwards, officers’ wives worked voluntarily for the force, searching female prisoners and drunk women in custody. As police officers’ wives were not allowed to work, they often volunteered in stations, cooking for single policemen.
In 1914 the force paid its first woman, Evelyn Miles, to act as matron at the central lock-up, to supervise female prisoners.
Evelyn later went on to join the force as the first female police officer and rose to sergeant rank. Another photograph taken in 1993 shows the time when female officers welcomed culottes as the latest addition to their working wardrobe.
Today, nearly 60 per cent of police staff in the West Midlands are women. The force also has 138 female Special Constables. Insp Denise Clarke, executive member for the force’s Association for Women in Policing said: “As these photos show, women have always made a contribution to policing.
“Whether it was supervising female prisoners or supporting their husbands in the job. We have travelled a long way in the last century and today women form an integral part of the force, fulfilling key roles. Our highest ranking female officer, Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe has responsibility for local policing and performs a top job alongside her male colleagues.