Created (well, fictionalized) by Greer Macallister
Inspired by real-life operative for the equally real-life Pinkerton Detective Agency, Girl in Disguise (2017) presents an occasionally fictionalized version of the extraordinary life of KATE WARNE, one of that agency’s first female ops.
A determined young widow trying to scrape by on the mean streets of 1850s Chicago, she convinces the founder of the agency, Allan J. Pinkerton, to hire her as a detective, and soon finds herself right in the thick of things, one of the key players in the early days of the agency, with a penchant for undercover work.
By the way, this isn’t the first time Warne has been fictionalized. She appears in Pinkerton’s Secret (2008) by Eric Lerner, which imagines a steamy affair between Allen J. Pinkerton himself and his pretty young operative, as well as a secret alliance with abolitionist John Brown at the outbreal of the Civil War.
The real Kate Warne, who was born in 1833 in Erin, New York, and finding herself a widow at a young age, applied for a position at the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s offices in Chicago. Not as a secretary, though, as Allan Pinkerton assumed, but for the position of detective, in response to a newspaper ad.
Pinkerton was initially reluctant, but Warne, according to Pinkerton Spy, Feminist Icon “made a convincing argument, noting that women could be ‘most useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective’ and that as a woman, she could more easily befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspects, gaining their confidence, adding that men often brag around women and that women have a better eye for detail and observation. Pinkerton, who later described her as ‘a commanding person” whose intellectual and honest features made her seem like a good confidante, hired Warne, making her the first female detective in the U.S.'”
- Rest in Pieces
The Fictionalized Lives of Private Eye Writers
- Pinkerton Spy, Feminist Icon
The real deal on the real Kate Warne, by Nile Cappello (July 2019, CrimeReads)