Mary Allen (1878-1964)
MARY Sophia Allen was a military-minded woman who was probably attracted to the Women Police Volunteers because it was the most regimented and militant of all the suffrage societies.
Born of a wealthy family in Cheltenham (her father was General Manager of the Great Western Railway), she was educated at Princess Helena College. When she took over the Hastings branch in 1912 she had already achieved national fame (or notoriety).
She introduced herself to local suffragettes by giving a talk describing her window smashing raids on Government buildings in London and Bristol, three terms of imprisonment, her hunger strike and force-feeding.
When war broke out in 1914, Mary co-founded with Margaret Damer Dawson the Women’s Police Volunteers and was Sub-Commandant under Dawson.
They moved to Grantham in 1915 to curb prostitution, making a big impact. Usually they prodded couples with umbrellas to make their point. They left the following year for London. She was made a member of the regular police force. She and Dawson lived together as a couple from 1913 until Dawson’s death in 1920.
She became Commandant when Dawson retired in 1919. When the war was over Scotland Yard tried to disband the Women’s Police Service but the moves were countered by Miss Allen.
In 1921 Mary Allen became commandant of the renamed Women’s Auxiliary Service. Her motto was ‘Set a woman to catch a woman’
In 1922 she moved to Cologne in Germany to train women police. She returned by 1926 organising women to help to break the 1926 General Strike, by keeping road transport services running.
After meeting Hitler in 1934 she became a fervent admirer and Nazi sympathiser, and took to wearing jack-boots.
Allen was also an active supporter of General Franco and his Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War and associated with Sir Oswald Moseley. She was also Chief Women’s Officer of the British Union of Fascists.
Her extreme right-wing views made her unpopular with some members of the Women’s Auxiliary Service and she was forced to leave the police service with the approach of the Second World War.
She became increasingly eccentric, and her apparent support for Hitler and Goering led to questions about whether she should be interned in 1940.