First Female Detective: Kate Warne

Nothing is known about Kate Warne’s origins, other than what Allan Pinkerton of Chicago’s Pinkerton Detective Agency wrote about her. According to Pinkerton, in 1856 Kate Warne showed up on the agency’s doorstep and asked Pinkerton for a job as a detective. She offered no qualifications, gave him no references, and told him nothing about herself except that she was from New York and wished to be addressed as “Mrs.”

I’ve always wondered what secrets Kate had locked in her heart on that day in 1856, and I always wanted to write about her. Last year, Mystery Writers of America gave me an opportunity to achieve my dream: I wrote a short story about her, “The Very Private Detective,” which was selected for inclusion in the MWA 2013 anthology, THE MYSTERY BOX.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago is the reason private detectives are called “Private Eyes” now. Pinkerton’s logo was “The Eye that Never Sleeps.” Frank Morn’s The Eye that Never Sleeps is an authoritative history of the agency, a book I reviewed in 1982 for Chicago History Magazine, because of my interest in Kate Warne.