When Rosalie Sterritt QSM joined the police in 1948, woman officers wore plain clothes, were expected to deal only with female offenders and battled for respect from their male colleagues.

Canterbury police celebrated 75 years of women in emergency services at a Hagley Park event yesterday.

Although she didn't feel like a trailblazer at the time, Miss Sterritt, 91, looks back at those early years as a long slow fight for acceptance.

Canterbury police celebrated 75 years of women in emergency services at a Hagley Park. Photo / Christchurch Star
Canterbury police celebrated 75 years of women in emergency services at a Hagley Park. Photo / Christchurch Star

A national torch relay arrived in Christchurch yesterday and a 'blue light barbecue' was held in Hagley Park.

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By the time Miss Sterritt retired in 1985, as a senior constable, she was New Zealand's longest serving police officer - a record she still holds.

She was pleased to see that women today were treated as equals and believed it was a matter of time until a woman became commissioner.

Her father, Constable David Sterritt, had been a mounted policeman and she decided to join the fourth intake of policewomen while working at the Kaikoura Hospital office.

"I don't think my parents were very happy with the idea," she said.

"They thought it might be too much rough and tumble, probably."

The women were given limited duties in those days.

"They wanted to just shove us in offices on phone duty and district office records," she said.

Rosalie Sterritt QSM joined the police service in 1948. Photo / Christchurch Star
Rosalie Sterritt QSM joined the police service in 1948. Photo / Christchurch Star

"If we went out on a job with a man, even though I might have been senior in service, because he was a man he was considered to be my senior. It was stupid."

Miss Sterritt remembered woman officers being issued handbags and being required to leave the force if they got married.