Girl In Disguise by Greer Macallister is a historical novel which begins in 1856, and is the story of America’s first female private detective. Kate Warne was a real person who worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and who interacted directly with many of the most famous people in American history, including Abraham Lincoln.
Immediately after Abraham Lincoln was elected President, his life was in danger. In those days, the government provided no security protection for Presidential candidates or even for the President-elect. There were grave doubts about whether or not Lincoln could make it to Washington alive for his inauguration. Lincoln ended up traveling to Washington in disguise as a invalid, his extreme height hidden by the fact that he was in a wheelchair. Kate Warne traveled with Lincoln as his sister, pushing the wheelchair and handling all of the travel arrangements. Despite this, the name of Kate Warne is virtually unknown in American history.
Girl In Disguise is a terrific novel that brings this fascinating period in American history to life. Greer Macallister shows what it was like for a woman in 1856 trying to make a living in what was very much a man’s profession. At first, no one takes Kate Warne seriously, and everyone assumes that Allan Pinkerton must be sleeping with Kate. (He was not.) However, Kate is quickly able to show her usefulness in the field of private investigation.
The fact that no one could imagine a woman as a detective is exactly what made her so effective. She could go under cover as a shop girl, a rich socialite, or even a “lady of the evening”. Men made a lot of assumptions about Kate, but they never suspected she was a detective.
Kate Warne’s usefulness to Abraham Lincoln did not end after Lincoln successfully made it to Washington. During the Civil War, Washington was full of Southern spies, and Kate worked undercover to help ferret them out.
Kate Warne eventually started the woman’s division of the Pinkerton Detective agency and hired a number of female operatives of various backgrounds, who themselves became great detectives. Despite Kate Warne’s contribution to the security of the United States, she never got the recognition she deserved. Her whole life, behind her back, people whispered that the only “work” she really did at the Pinkerton Detective Agency was being Allan Pinkerton’s mistress. There were no medals and no state funeral for Kate Warne when she died of a sudden illness in 1868. She was quietly laid to rest in the Pinkerton family plot. Her name was misspelled on her tombstone.