Monday, April 20, 2015

Kate Warne: First Female Private Eye

Kate Warne disguised as a man during
the Civil War to blend in during counter
spy investigations.
As a kid some of my favorite shows were about cops, private eyes and  spies, like Mission Impossible, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Hawaii Five-O, and Mannix. And once, because of a job related incident while a librarian, I was questioned by the FBI and then subpoenaed to be a federal witness, which was a fascinating experience. 

Although I'm too wimpy to fire a gun or chase bad guys, I have a fascination with people who do!    

I'm taking a small departure from historical fiction as I work on my next book, which is a contemporary comedic mystery that involves a female private investigator.

However, since I am a history lover, I wanted to learn about the very first female private eye. Her name was Kate Warne (1833-1868), and here's part of her story from Wikipedia:
Described by Allan Pinkerton as a slender, brown haired woman, there is not much else known about Warne prior to when she walked into the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1856. Born in New York, Warne became a widow shortly after she married. Warne was left as a young childless widow in search of work. In answer to an ad in a local newspaper, Warne walked into Pinkerton's Chicago office in search of a job. There is still debate whether or not she walked in with intentions to become a detective or just a secretary. Women were not detectives until well after the Civil War. Pinkerton himself claimed that Warne came into his agency and demanded to become a detective. According to Pinkerton's records, he
"was surprised to learn Kate was not looking for clerical work, but was actually answering an advertisement for detectives he had placed in a Chicago newspaper. At the time, such a concept was almost unheard of. Pinkerton said " It is not the custom to employ women detectives!" Kate argued her point of view eloquently - pointing out that women could 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. Kate also noted, Women have an eye for detail and are excellent observers."[2]
Warne's arguments swayed Pinkerton, who at 10 o'clock on the morning of August 23, 1856, employed Warne as the first female detective.[3] Pinkerton soon had a chance to put Warne to the test. In 1858, Warne was involved in the case of Adams Express Company embezzlements where she was successfully able to bring herself into the confidence of the wife of the prime suspect, Mr. Maroney. She thereby acquired the valuable evidence leading to the husband's conviction.[4] Mr. Maroney was an expressman living in Montgomery, Alabama. The Maroneys stole $50,000 from the Adams Express Company. With Warne’s help, $39,515 was returned. Mr. Maroney was convicted and sentenced to ten years in Montgomery, Alabama.
For the rest of her story click here.
Had you ever heard of Kate Warne?
Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

9 comments:

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I had not heard of Kate Warne - very cool!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi Jennette! When I started doing research on PIs, I learned about her. Cool, indeed:).

Intangible Hearts said...

Never heard of her but loved your post. I remember interviewing for a job where they told me they wanted someone of the male persuasion but two years later after many, many interviews they hired me anyway.

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi Eve! isn't that funny;). You were what they were looking for all along, but it took them a while to realize that!

William Kendall said...

This is the first I've heard of her.

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi William! She was a rather elusive figure in history;).

Norma Beishir said...

I hadn't heard of her, either--but then, I usually learn something new from your posts. Thanks, Maria!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi Norma! You're kind--glad to know you learn something new from my posts;).

Corey said...

The photograph above has often been mislabeled as Kate Warne. It is not her. The person in question is said to be John Backcock (labeled on the original photo), and photographs of Babcock confirm this identity. Here's Babcock: http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cwpb/00200/00293v.jpg

Hope this helps.