3 out of 4 stars
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The 1970s were a time of activism and change; women wanted equal opportunities, and the world was about to see significant changes. Karen, a then 22-year-old aspiring RCMP officer’s dreams were coming to fruition. Woman In Scarlet by Karen L. Adams is an inspirational memoir that follows the author as she becomes one of the first females to be accepted into the RCMP. From an ambitious but scared young woman to a seasoned officer and teacher, Karen shares her successes and setbacks from her career as a mountie.
As someone highly interested in women’s studies, this book immediately piqued my interest, and I was quickly captivated by Karen’s story. Excitement aside, as one could imagine becoming one of the first female officers came with its share of obstacles. While Karen had a supportive family and friends, many others were resistant to this change. Throughout her career, but especially in the beginning, Karen dealt with issues such as lack of acceptance from the public, sexual harassment, and the plight of being a single mother.
One of my favorite things about the book was Karen’s unrelenting drive. While she faced her fair share of hardship and discrimination, she didn’t crumble under pressure, and never veered off course—always kept her eyes on the prize. During her first posting in Thompson, Manitoba, she was continually sexually assaulted by a corporal. Not only did she feel ashamed and angry, but in many ways, she felt as though she could not speak out about the assault out of fear of losing her job. She also faced some backlash from the community as many people were unaccustomed to a female officer. These were just a few of the many challenges that she faced throughout her career. Still, she remained steadfast in her belief that by enduring the difficulties and preserving, she would soon be able to enjoy the fruits of her labor.
Another thing that I adored about the book was Karen’s sense of humor; her unique stories always had me laughing. Some of her funniest experiences came from her time at the training facility in Regina. Her group of women recruits, Troop 17, were often frustrated at being treated differently than their male counterparts. Karen confesses how the group of women orchestrated a memorable march for their drill sergeant when they tied bells to the bottom of their boots. This was in response to their feelings that the female mountie uniform paled in comparison to the male outfit. Other funny tidbits included a surprise invasion of the male quarters and the shocking way she showed Cpl. Fisher how she could fight off an attacker in the water.
While I adored the book, for the most part, there were a couple of things that irked me. I wasn’t particularly fond of the author’s use of quotes. While I appreciated the sentiment, I feel that they could have been more effective if used at the beginning of each chapter rather than randomly placed within the text. This may be a matter of personal preference, but I did find them quite distracting. I also found that the book’s timeline was confusing at times, particularly concerning Karen’s personal and family life, and it jumped back and forth, leaving some holes in the storyline.
The book was professionally edited, and I was impressed by the lack of errors. I chose to give the book a rating of three out of four stars; I deducted one star due to the issues mentioned above, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
For readers interested in a career in law or policing, I would recommend Woman In Scarlet. The book provides a detailed history of how women broke through barriers and fought for their opportunity to be RCMP officers. Karen was indeed a trailblazer who paved the way for equality in the police force.
Woman In Scarlet
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