NORA CRAWFORD
Policewoman
1917-1997

New Zealand's first female detective

Nora Crawford was born and raised in Taranaki and, according to police, most of her secondary education was completed by correspondence and made to fit in around her daily tasks on the family farm near Hāwera.

She completed a degree at Massey University and began working as a herd tester but in 1943 she joined the police - in just the third intake of women to the organisation.

In 1944, Crawford was posted to Auckland.

"Her duties included dealing with 'idle and disorderly' women, investigating illegal bookmakers and sly-grogging, patrolling parks and cinemas, as well as helping the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) to interview female offenders, victims and witnesses," her police biography states.

Police would later say she proved to be "particularly adept at the latter task".

Her interest in fraud and her detection skills were recognised by the CIB and in 1955 she was offered a role alongside her male colleagues.

"This was a significant accomplishment at a time when many policemen resented the presence or promotion of women in the service," the biography says.

Crawford passed a qualifying course in 1958 and became the first female officer to reach the rank.

"Good natured, forthright and friendly, she took pride in doing exactly the same job as the men," police said.

She was also given additional duties, including being designated as an escort and bodyguard for visiting dignitaries including Queen Elizabeth, in 1953.

In 1969 she was promoted to the CIB fraud squad.

After 23 years in the CIB, Crawford retired from the police and started a second career in bank card security.

Crawford was also a foundation member of the New Zealand branch of the International Police Association and in 1985 she became patron of Recruit Wing 101 at the Royal New Zealand Police College - the first time a policewoman had been honoured.