Monday, March 28, 2022

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 ImpossibleThe 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 working on my second Black Ops Detective Mystery which features Tracy Black, a female private investigator.

 This is temporary departure from writing historical fiction. However, since I'm 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 hereHad you ever heard of Kate Warne? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 21, 2022

Dr. Joyce Brown: First Black Female Conductor

March is Women's History Month, and today I'm taking a look at musical prodigy Dr. Joyce Brown, Broadway's first African-American female musical conductor. I'd never heard of Dr. Brown, but was introduced to her by my Goodreads friend Damon Evans. Thak you, Damon! The following is an excerpt from

[The musical production that Dr. Brown conducted beginning on its opening night] was "Purlie," which debuted in 1970, and explored the life of traveling preacher Purlie Victorious Judson set in the Jim Crow era. The play was nominated for Tony's Best Musical award that year. This was quite the feat for Brown, as conducting was and remains a highly male-dominated profession.

When asked how she felt about making history with "Purlie," Brown -- who played piano, violin, cello, trumpet, saxophone and organ -- told the International Musician Magazine in 1970, "I would have gotten the job anyhow because the competency is there." She also declared in the New York Daily News in '70: "I'm a member of [the American Federation of Musicians] Local 802 [Union] in good standing. I've worked hard. And I'm reliable. I was picked for the job."

Purlie's pit orchestra was racial diverse -- simply because the New York City-raised daughter of Jamaican immigrants was bold enough to ask for it. As she told the International Musician: "I requested an interracial orchestra -- and a congenial one. And, I got it," but acknowledged that this was "not as usual."

"To see the black people in the pit [at all] was a big deal," highly acclaimed Broadway conductor and Joyce Brown protege Linda Twine said.

Simply being a black woman waving the baton was not the only reason audiences were so enthralled by her. She moved with the effervescent spirit of a well-rehearsed one-woman show.

The New York Daily News wrote in 1973 that Brown "manages so much body English when she leads that the audience can't help being aware of her." Three years earlier, that same publication, under the headline "Joyful Joyce," stated that she "sings all the lyrics along with the actors and does refined bumps and grinds as she leads the band. Her pearl earrings do not bounce off only because her ears are pierced."

For the complete article, click here. It's a shame she seems to be forgotten. Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Aging Gracefully

I don't know about you, but I think there's a lot of truly "questionable" plastic surgery going on out there making some in the spotlight appear like they need to hide in the shadows. I won't post any of those pictures, but I'm sure some unfortunate celebrities come to mind.

I have, however, posted some photographs of lovely Loretta Young. I've mentioned before that she is one of the most beautiful women to have ever graced the silver screen. If I assume correctly, Ms.Young never "went under the knife." I've read that as a Catholic, she didn't drink and lived a clean life. Of course there's the matter of her first child, Judy Lewis, but that's another blog post.

These photos aren't dated, but I believe the one on top was taken sometime in the 1930s, so Ms. Young would have been in her twenties. From the small print in the bottom photo, I'm figuring it was taken in 1999, which would put her at 76. Loretta Young was gorgeous at every age!

Can you think of any other celebrities today who are choosing to age gracefully?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 7, 2022

Jim Beckwourth

 I just finished watching Taylor Sheridan's historical fiction series 1883, the prequal to his hit series Yellowstone. I haven't had a chance to watch all of Yellowstone yet, but 1883 is an excellent series that I highly recommend. One of the characters, Thomas, is a black Pinkerton agent/former Union and Buffalo Soldier played by actor LaMonica Garret. Thomas plays a major role in moving a group of German immigrants to the Western frontier. If you love historical drama, you'll love 1883!

I don't know that much about African Americans who contributed to the settlement of the American West, but today I'm blogging about one sent to me by my friend Mary, whose name was Jim Beckwourth. Take a look at some of his story that's available on the Jim Beckwourth site:

Jim Beckwourth was an African American who played a major role in the early exploration and settlement of the American West. Although there were people of many races and nationalities on the frontier, Beckwourth was the only African American who recorded his life story, and his adventures took him from the everglades of Florida to the Pacific Ocean and from southern Canada to northern Mexico.

He dictated his autobiography to Thomas D. Bonner, an itinerant Justice of the Peace in the gold fields of California, in 1854-55. After Bonner "polished up" Beckwourth's rough narrative, The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians was published by Harper and Brothers in 1856. The book apparently achieved a certain amount of popular success, for it was followed by an English edition in the same year, a second printing two years later, and a French translation in 1860.

Beckwourth's role in American history was often dismissed by historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many were quite blatant in their prejudices, refusing to give any credence to a "mongrel of mixed blood." And many of his acquaintances considered the book something of a joke.

But Beckwourth was a man of his times, and for the early fur trappers of the Rockies, the ability to "spin a good yarn" was a skill valued almost as highly as marksmanship or woodsmanship. And while Beckwourth certainly had a tendency to exaggerate numbers or to occasionally make himself the hero of events that happened to other people, later historians have discovered that much of what Beckwourth related in his autobiography actually occurred.

For his full story check out Jim Beckwourth! I wasn't familiar with him. Were you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!