Mystery Monday: First Female Pinkerton Detective
Finding employment as a widow in the mid-1800s could be challenging. Prospects for jobs included teacher, store clerk, office clerk (although senior secretarial positions for mostly held by men,) housekeeper, governess, and laundress. None of these positions held allure for Kate Hulbert Warne, a 23-year old widow from New York.
Instead, she answered an advertisement Allan Pinkerton placed in one of the Chicago newspapers. Stunned at Mrs. Warne’s interest at being hired as a detective, Pinkerton replied, “It is not the custom to employ women detectives. Indeed, I never heard of a female detective.”
But Kate was persuasive saying, “Women can be most useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective. A woman would be able to befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspected criminals and gain their confidence. Men become braggarts when they are around women who encourage them to boast. Women have an eye for detail and are excellent observers.”
Pinkerton asked for twenty-four hours to consider her request. When he hired her the following day she became the nation’s first female detective. It is reported that she is the one who thwarted an assassination attempt on President Lincoln. She often worked undercover, and her cases included discovering the whereabouts of $40,000 stolen from Adams Express Company, finding the killer of City Bank of Atkinson teller George Gordon, and solving the attempted murder of Captain J.N. Sumner.
Few photos exist of Kate, but Pinkerton described her as: “Her features, although not was could be called handsome, were decidedly of an intellectual cast. Her face was honest, which would cause one in distress instinctively to select her as a confidante.” In his memoirs that were published as her death, he commented that “she exceeded all his expectations.”
Highly successful, Kate passed away at the age of 37. Newspapers praised her work saying “She was quick to perceive and prompt to act; she proved that females are useful in a sphere to which the wants of society have long been loath to assign them. As she lived, so she died, a fearless, pure, and devoted woman.”
May 1942: Geneva Alexander flees Philadelphia and joins the USO to escape the engagement her parents have arranged for her, only to wind up as the number one suspect in her betrothed’s murder investigation. Diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease, she must find the real killer before she loses her sight…or is convicted for a crime she didn’t commit.
Set in the early days of America’s entry into WWII and featuring cameo appearances from Hollywood stars, Murder of Convenience is a tribute to individuals who served on the home front, especially those who did so in spite of personal difficulties, reminding us that service always comes as a result of sacrifice. Betrayal, blackmail, and a barrage of unanswered questions… Murder of Convenience is the first the exciting new “Women of Courage” series.
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