You know you’ve done your job excellently as a detective if you died and left nothing but a shroud of mystery. You have no official photograph, no vivid details on identity, no legacy but your thrilling tales of awesomeness and misadventures straight out of spy novels and movies. That was the best way to describe 1800’s first female detective, Kate Warne. Not much was known about her personal life, but here’s her untold story.

Allan Pinkerton’s Agency

First logo for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Color version. (Original logo created by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

During the Civil War, Allan Pinkerton spent his first two years as head of the Union Intelligence Service. As known in history, he was the one who foiled an alleged assassination plan while he was guarding Abraham Lincoln on his way to Washington, DC. He had an agency called the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. His all-male agents often worked undercover as Confederate soldiers or sympathizers to gather valuable military intelligence. It was something that Pinkerton himself did, too, under the guise of his fake identity as Major EJ Allen.

The counterintelligence that Pinkerton and his agents did was comparable to what the US Army Counterintelligence Special Agents of today were doing. Succeeding him was Lafayette Baker who worked as Intelligence Service Chief.

Not Here for the Clerical Job

In the summer of 1856, a young woman approached Pinkerton’s desk in his agency’s office based in Chicago. Thinking that the woman had mistaken their job posting for a detective, he told her they were not looking for a secretary. The woman responded that she knew exactly what they were looking for: a new detective. And that’s what she came for.