She was a pipe-smoking shipworker with a reputation for being tougher than any man in Glasgow.

Not surprisingly perhaps Rachel Hamilton is also credited with being Scotland’s first ever woman police officer.

In their heyday, Glasgow’s shipyards were full of burly men wielding hammers and axes – with one major exception.

Born Rachel Johnston she worked as a labourer in Tod and McGregor’s shipbuilders having moved to Glasgow from Ireland.

She was also a forewoman navvy at a Jordanhill brickworks around the same time and later worked on a farm in Anniesland.

Unusually for a woman, Rachel also liked to smoke a pipe.

She was also 6ft 4ins, which combined with her 17-stone frame and pipe made her stand out from the crowd.

Not surprisingly the 46-year-old was known as Big Rachel.

She was also more than capable of holding her own in an unforgiving all-male domain.

At that time Partick, where she lived and worked, was experiencing sectarian disorder linked to the troubles in Ireland.

Partick also had its own burgh police force but officers were being overwhelmed by the battles between people that supported Home Rule for Ireland and local members of the Orange Order who supported British rule from London.

Drastic steps were needed and senior officers were looking to recruit special constables to provide backup to officers on the ground.

Step forward Mrs Rachel Hamilton.

Soon Big Rachel along with her male colleagues was making her physical presence felt and her no-nonsense methods quickly helped restore order.

It was said that during this period she ruled Partick with an iron fist and was not afraid to literally crack a few heads.

Anyone who ignored her warnings – even for swearing in the street – ran the risk of being dumped off the nearest dock into the River Clyde.

Big Rachel was the earliest pioneer of women’s policing who became a legend until her death at the age of 70 in 1899.

But it would be another 35 years before women were allowed to officially join up.

Glasgow Times:

Official records have Emily Miller as the first full-time woman police officer in Glasgow in 1915.

In those days, female officers had badges and armlets but no uniforms or powers of arrest.

Emily’s job was to work alongside her male colleagues investigating crimes against women and children, particularly indecencies.

At first, the men were reluctant to work with her. However, by the end of the First World War she was seen as indispensable.

In 1924 female police officers were finally given the power of arrest.

By 1928 there were 16 in Scotland, 11 in Glasgow.

Their duties again involved mainly taking statements from women and children who were victims of crime.

In 1931, the legendary Sir Percy Sillitoe took over as Chief Constable of Glasgow.

He was a well-known supporter of policewomen and increased their numbers in his force from 11 to 15.

In 1933 he promoted Constable Jean Malloy to Sergeant, the first woman in Scotland to hold that rank. At the start of the Second World War, the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps was set up to free up male officers for military duties.

The corps was closed down after the war and the City of Glasgow force went back to its old ways of recruiting mainly men.

However, 12 uniformed policewomen were absorbed into the regular force. By this time Jean Malloy had been promoted to Inspector.

However, by 1970 just 382 female police officers were employed in Scotland – less than 4% of all officers.

Up to 1968, women cops had to resign if they married and, until 1973, if they became pregnant.

Glasgow Times:

But things were changing, albeit slowly In 1974 constables Elizabeth Kerr and Janet Raeside were appointed as Scotland’s first women traffic cops.

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 finally enabled females to be recruited on the same terms and conditions as men, including pay.

In 1976 female officers were allowed to drop the W from in front of their ranks, so they would be known as a constable, sergeant etc rather than WPC.

And in recent years the term policewoman has been phased out altogether.

In 2008 Norma Graham was appointed Scotland’s first female chief constable, as head of Fife Constabulary.

This month Jo Farrell will take over as Police Scotland’s first-ever female Chief Constable following the retirement of Sir Iain Livingstone.

Farrell will join from Durham Constabulary where she has been Chief Constable since 2019.

Her number two will be Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor, previously Scotland’s highest-serving female officer.

The most recent figures from Police Scotland show there are now more than 5700 female cops across the country, accounting for around 32% of all officers.

In the decades following Rachel’s pioneering role as a Special Constable, many other women have stepped up to the mark – but perhaps using more acceptable methods.

The efforts of two female officers in 1930 set a legal precedent that is still used today in police investigations.

The owner of an employment agency for women told police that applicants she sent for jobs at a factory owned by Samuel Moorov had been indecently assaulted by him – but their accounts were uncorroborated.

Constables Ellen Scollay and Ellen Webster were sent to investigate and managed to get enough evidence for a conviction.

Moorov appealed but judges upheld it, stating that individual acts of a similar nature by an accused corroborate each other and show criminal conduct.

The Moorov Doctrine is still in use in Scots law today and has resulted in several major convictions over the years particularly of sex offenders.

In 1977, Glasgow was gripped by the murders of three young women Anna Kenny, Hilda McAuley and Agnes Cooney over a three-month period.

Hilda’s battered body had been found in a lovers’ lane in Langbank, Renfrewshire that October.

She had last been seen 12 hours earlier with a mystery man she had met at the Plaza Ballroom in Govanhill.

Three women detectives – Sandra Harris, Caroline Sneddon and Nancy Robertson – were given the potentially dangerous task of going undercover at the Plaza in the hope the killer might return.

The move was virtually unheard of at a time when female police officers were still seen as glorified secretaries who only dealt with crimes involving women and children.

While the crime remains unsolved, it has long been suspected that Hilda, Anna and Agnes were victims of Glasgow serial killer Angus Sinclair who died in 2019.

In 1980, 22-year-old Elaine Mudie became the hero of Hampden when a bloody battle broke out between Celtic and Rangers fans at the end of the 1980 Scottish Cup final.

Constable Mudi, who was riding a white horse called Ballantrae, famously managed to clear many of the hooligans off the pitch.

In a recent interview, Elaine said: “I looked up and the sky was absolutely full of missiles. It looked as if it was raining bottles, cans, bricks, toilet rolls – everything.

“The first moments were fear. I’d never seen anything like this in my life.”

The riot left dozens of people needing hospital treatment with Elaine retiring from the police in 2007 after 30 years of service.

One of the most successful female police officers of recent years was Nanette Pollock who having joined in 1972 rose to the rank of Detective Chief Inspector before retiring 30 years later.

Latterly she was involved in leading major inquiries including the murder of Glasgow sex worker Margo Lafferty in 1998 which resulted in the conviction of teenager Brian Donnelly in 2001.

In one interview Pollock recalled how women in the 1970s had their backsides branded as part of a bizarre initiation rite carried out on female officers.

She added: “When you arrived in CID, they would put you over a desk, lift up your skirt and use the office stamp on your buttocks,”

“Looking back, you can’t believe that sort of thing went on, but it was all done in a jovial way and in those days you just accepted it. Other officers would ask: ‘Have you had your bum stamped yet?’ Once you’d been through it, you felt you were part of the team.”

Pollock joined the City of Glasgow Police three years before the Sex Discrimination Act came into force, In the same interview she added: “Then, when I started the initial training at Oxford Street, Glasgow, it was 35 men and me. I asked an instructor: ‘Where are the other women recruits?’ He said: ‘What other women?’”

Though Pollock earned the respect of most of her colleagues, there was always someone on hand willing to undermine her achievement.

She continued: “I remember when I was promoted to DCI, one of the officers asked: ‘Who are you sleeping with?’”