The First Female Detective


Cover Photo


She’s a Pinkerton detective; he’s got more aliases

than can be found in Boot Hill. 

Neither have a clue about love–Gunpowder Tea


After reading about Kate Warne, the first known female detective, the idea for my new book Gunpowder Tea popped into my head.  I just knew I had to write about a heroine who was a Pinkerton detective.katewarne


Kate Warne worked for the Pinkerton National Detective agency from 1856 to her death in 1868. Since women were not allowed to join the police department until 1890, the firm’s founder Allan Pinkerton was well ahead of his time in hiring her.  Originally, he thought she was applying for a secretary job, but she convinced him to hire her as a detective.

To a pickpocket the world is at his fingertips.–Gunpowder Tea 

 Quick to see the advantage of female detectives, he put her in charge of the Pinkerton Female Detective Bureau. Formed in 1860 the purpose of the female division was to ‘worm out secrets’ by means unavailable to male detectives.  She also managed the Pinkerton Washington department during the war.

 Little is known about Kate’s early life. She was supposedly a widow when Allan Pinkerton hired her, which may or may not be true.   Her job was often to elicit sympathy and therefore confessions from the criminal element, and widowhood might have been part of her charade.

 For a job that supposedly doesn’t pay,

crime has no lack of employees. –Gunpowder Tea

  A master of disguise, Kate could change her accent as readily as she could change her appearance and her “Southern Belle” disguise helped save President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s life.  After verifying a plot to assassinate him, Kate wrapped Lincoln in a shawl and passed him off as her invalid brother, thus assuring his safety as he traveled by train to Washington D.C.  Kate never slept the whole time Lincoln was in her charge. This may or may not have been the inspiration behind the Pinkerton logo: We never sleep. 

  Suspicion ain’t proof unless you’re married.–Gunpowder Tea


 Since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 wiped out Pinkerton records little is known about those early days. What is known is that Kate caused trouble between Allen and his brother Robert.  The two argued over Kate’s expenses, which Robert thought were excessive.  He didn’t think it right for the company to pay for his brother’s “sordid affair.”   

 Stealing another man’s wife is a serious crime,

second only to horse rustlin’. –Gunpowder Tea

There’s no question that Allen cared deeply for Kate, but biographers are split on whether there was an actual affair.  What’s not in question is Kate’s reputation as an excellent detective; her trailblazing efforts helped the Pinkerton Detective Agency rise to fame–and inspired me to write a book!


Exquistely intriguing” –Publishers Weekly Starred Review for Gunpowder Tea!

Order from your favorite bookstore or click cover to order on line Gunpowdertea1

+ posts

32 thoughts on “The First Female Detective”

  1. Margaret, Gunpowder Tea sounds like a book I must read. Your post was so interesting and informative. I can only imagine some of the stories that Kate could tell. What an interesting job she had! Thank you for doing what you do so well. Melanie

  2. Melanie, thank you. It’s sad that so much about Kate was lost in the Chicago fire. I would love to have seen the look on an outlaw’s face upon coming face to face with a woman detective.

  3. I can’t wait to read Gunpowder Tea! Thank you for sharing the history of the first female detective! Fascinating!!

    Speaking of the Pinkertons, I have an old metal Carnation milk crate embossed with the words: Warning: This case protected by Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, Inc.

  4. Wow! This is amazing information. I had no idea. What a neat premise for a story. Those seem go just fall in your lap. Wishing you all the best with GUNPOWDER TEA! The title alone grabs me and pulls me in.

  5. Margaret, it sounds like a fantastic book! I love history and this was something I didn’t now! Thanks for the post!

  6. Vairi,
    Love your last name Western! It’s funny but I used to hate history in school–all those battles and dates. Now I can’t get enough of it, but I stay away from battles. I’m more interested in the people.

  7. Love to read about the Pinkerton! Such interesting part of history! Can’t wait to pick up this book and read it. 🙂

  8. Margaret! I love this! What an intriguing story. I never knew Pinkerton’s employed a woman, so I find the story fascinating. This book is going on my TBR pile immediately! Congrats on the rave review from PW!!!!

  9. How cool to read about a female division in the Pinkerton Agency and that Kate was given that kind of opportunity. That is sad about the fire destroying so much history.

  10. Wow! I’ve never heard of her. How interesting! Can’t wait to read this book. I’ll be on the lookout for it.’

  11. Another intriguing story from you to look forward to.

    The Pinkertons were definitely ahead of their time. Whether it was by sympathy or sweet talking, they obviously were aware that women would be more effective in dealing with some suspects. Again, society was still in the “the helpless, little women” must be protected from the evils of society. The Pinkertons benefited from not buying into that belief.

    I am sure GUNPOWDER TEA will do very well. I look forward to reading it.

  12. Such an interesting post, Margaret! Didn’t know much about Pinkerton’s, never heard the story about Lincoln, & never dreamed they had women working for them that long ago. Just goes to show – that in some cases – it takes a woman to get the job done (lol).

    Like you, I hated history when I was in school – but am loving finding out all these historical facts on the various Christian fiction blogs!

  13. Hi Margaret,

    You’re one of my favorite authors. I’d read about Kate Warne’s involvement in the civil war, but didn’t know that she was a Pinkerton or that she was so attractive. Glad you provided a photo. I’ll bet there was a love angle in there somewhere.

    I’ll be getting my copy of Gunpowder Tea soon.

Comments are closed.