From Sherlock Holmes to Jessica Fletcher, the detective is as beloved in pop culture as the superhero and cupcake baker, but how many of them can say they've thwarted a presidential assassination? That's right: The entirety of genre fiction couldn't invent a character as slick as Kate Warne, which is pretty impressive, considering that she apparently just decided one day in 1856, when she was 23, that she wanted to be a detective.
Not much is known about her life before then, just that she was born in New York and recently widowed when she walked into the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which was basically the private FBI, in response to a want ad for detectives. Allan Pinkerton initially balked because that was like a dog walking into a hospital and asking to perform surgery at that time. However, Warne convinced him that women could go where men couldn't, including into the confidence of gossipy wives and girlfriends, and noted that "men become braggarts when they are around women who encourage them to boast."
But she proved immediately invaluable. In her first major case, investigating embezzlement at a prominent freight carrier (yep, that's technically a train robbery), she became such a trusted friend of the wife of the suspect that she not only got her man, but she also got most of the money back. She then dressed up as a slutty southern belle and headed to Baltimore to investigate unrest in the South (kind of a big thing at the time) and found out about a plot to assassinate the recently elected president. You might have heard of him -- big guy, tall hat. With her colleagues' help, she changed Lincoln's route to his inauguration, where the assassination attempt was planned to occur and disguised one of the most undisguisable guys in history as her invalid brother.
She didn't sleep during the whole trip so she could keep an eye on him, inspiring the agency's slogan "We never sleep," whose pronoun is doing a lot of heavy lifting there.
Pinkerton was so impressed by Warne and roundly disproven about the value of prettier agents that he gave her her own team, officially and quaintly called the Female Detective Bureau, but there was really nowhere to go once she'd saved the life of a president, so she died in 1868 of a vague lung disease. By that time, she and Pinkerton had become so close that she was buried in his family plot, and he commanded in his will that her grave was not to be disturbed, which makes more sense once you find out they had probably become romantically involved at some point. No word on what Mrs. Pinkerton thought of the whole thing. We can explore that in the movie.
Top image: qimono/Pixabay