The First Female Detective in the Unions: Kate Warne
Answering an ad for a detective in 1856, Kate Warne walked into the Chicago offices of Allan Pinkerton. He assumed she wanted a clerical job, but she soon convinced him she intended to become a Pinkerton detective. Warne countered Pinkerton’s objections, explaining how a woman could track suspects by infiltrating places men couldn’t. He immediately recognized the truth of her persuasive arguments and hired her over the objections of his brother, Robert.
When secessionists in Maryland plotted to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, Kate Warne posed as a Southern belle, keeping company with those in Baltimore’s high society. The relationships she fostered there gave her access to the details of the murder plot. Lincoln planned to travel by train to his inauguration in Washington, D.C. In Baltimore, he would need to change trains by taking a mile-long carriage ride, a perfect place for the assassination attempt.
Warne came up with a plan to have Lincoln dress as an invalid, boarding the train where he would meet Kate Warne posing as his sister. The train change took place in the trainyard where the sleeping car carrying Lincoln and Warne was shifted to another track and engine. Warne accompanied Lincoln safely to his 1861 inauguration without incident. Reportedly, she didn’t sleep that night as the train made its way to D.C. It became widely accepted that the Pinkerton slogan “We Never Sleep” evolved from this incident.
During the Civil War between 1861 and 1865, Warne circulated among members of Southern society, obtaining valuable information she passed along to the United States war effort. Following the war, Warne continued to be involved in a number of high-profile cases, and she earned the title Supervisor of Women Agents. Tragically, Warne died of pneumonia January 28, 1868 at the age of 38.
C.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.