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[Nonfiction Wednesday] Kate Werner – First Female Detective in the US

"How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln" by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk and Illustrated by Valentina Belloni

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2018 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

After some serious book hunting, I managed to find a few nonfiction picturebook titles that fit our current reading theme. This one, in particular, talks about the intrepid actions of the first female detective in the United States: Kate Warne, who at one point, prevented a possible assassination attempt on President-Elect Abraham Lincoln.


How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln

Written by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk Illustrated by Valentina Belloni
Published by Albert Whitman Company (2016)
ISBN-10: 0807541176 (ISBN13: 9780807541173)
Literary Award: 2017 Amelia Bloomer List, Early Readers Nonfiction
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

I remember being thoroughly taken by a TV series back in the early 2000: Alias with Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, a double agent working for the CIA. But even before that, one of my absolute favourite films was The Long Kiss Goodnight in 1996 with Geena Davis and Samuel Jackson. Hence, while I have yet to really appreciate Miss Marple or Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, suffice it to say that I have a special affinity towards female spies or women detectives. And Kate Warne just so happened to be the best of the best.

So the story is that Kate presented herself as a widow looking for a job one day in 1856, at the Chicago office of Pinkerton, reputed to be the world’s first detective agency. She managed to persuade Allan Pinkerton to hire his first female agent – a decision which proved that he had a sharp nose for talent and skill. The argument provided by Kate made me chuckle to myself as I was reading, because she was so right!

Kate explained that women were more skilled in obtaining secret information. Men liked to brag about their adventures and women encouraged them to talk by pretending to be impressed. Women, she said, could also worm out secrets in places where male detectives couldn’t go.

Kate went on to assume quite a number of disguises: from a fortuneteller in wealthy people’s homes to a high society woman who managed to infiltrate the Golden Circle who planned to attack president-elect Lincoln, because of his unpopular policies about the abolition of slavery.

The heartbreaking thing, here, however, is the lack of acknowledgment that Kate Warne received (if at all) when she was still alive. She died fairly young at the age of 38, and her achievements eventually given the recognition it deserves, with special thanks to suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who wrote about Warne’s “many years in watching, waylaying, exploring, and detecting.” This is one book that you should definitely add to your personal and classroom library.


#LitWorld2018GB Update: United States of America

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3 comments on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] Kate Werner – First Female Detective in the US

  1. This book sounds great!! I’m sorry that she died so young and unacknowledged.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lindabaie

    It’s a new story to me, Myra. Wow she died so young! Thanks for searching and discovering it, then sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have Kate Hannigan’s book to read that also features Kate Warne, I believe! This looks like it would be a good partner book!

    Liked by 1 person

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