Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kate Warne

In other news, I finished reading another Pinkerton detective story, "The Fortune Teller and the Detective", which was in the same book with the "Somnambulist and the Detective" I read earlier. In the "fortune teller" story, we see Kate Warne again (playing the fortune teller) and in chapter 3, Pinkerton mentions that she is the Superintendent of his Female Department. He compliments not only her but all lady detectives in general, from his twenty years of experience with them in his agency. He argues that it is as respectable a profession as clerical and other similar work. He makes sure to say that it's moral too (lest anybody think such women are corrupted).

According to Pinkerton, he first met Kate Warne in "spring of 1855" when she was a young widow, and hired her, yet Wikipedia claims that it was actually autumn of 1856. In any case, he was so impressed with her work that he created a whole department of female detectives and made her the Superintendent. Wiki says she was also Allan Pinkerton's mistress, which I guess must be true if she was buried with him and not her dead husband. Still, it seems the height of hypocrisy, given how in the books he's always making fun of criminals, male and female, who have affairs. (Pinkerton's detective philosophy is based on the idea that all criminals have a guilty conscience or at least a need to confide in loved ones about their crimes, so by planting detectives near them, you can worm the secrets out of them.)

Anyway, I was surprised to learn on Wiki that Warne was part of the team that foiled the "Baltimore Plot" to assassinate Lincoln on the way to his inauguration. That case was the career-maker for Pinkerton, making his agency famous! Not minor at all! I wonder why I had never heard of Kate Warne before reading Pinkerton's books. Why do we women never hear of pioneers like her? Sadly she died very young in 1868, only 38 years old.

I think I shall incorporate a mention of her, or at least the Female Department, in my DIM novel. It's natural that the Pinkertons should mention them to Irene or Helen, possibly to young Holmes when he first apprentices with them during his missing year in America.

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