Women’s History Spotlight: Kate Warne

Kate Warne

This Women’s History Month, the Security Industry Association (SIA) and its Women in Security Forum are celebrating the many valuable contributions of women in the security industry. One great example is Kate Warne of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

As a 23-year-old widow in 1856, Warne approached Pinkerton founder Allan Pinkerton at the company’s Chicago, Illinois, office with interest in a job as a detective. She was hired for her undercover skills and became the first female private detective in the United States. Warne became an immediate success, befriending the wife of the main suspect in a $50,000 robbery in Montgomery, Alabama, getting a confession and finding the buried cash (worth about $1.5 million today).

In 1861, Warne received the biggest assignment of her career – the Baltimore Plot, where she helped stop an assassination plot against then-President Elect Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was on an 11-day whistle-stop rail tour from Illinois to Washington, D.C., prior to his inauguration, with a planned stop in Baltimore, Maryland. During this tour, Warne attended secessionist parties in Baltimore undercover and discovered the assassination plot. She passed the information over to Pinkerton, and they helped deliver Lincoln safely through Baltimore by posing him as an invalid on a night train and Warne acting as his caregiver and sister.

Warne continued her work with Pinkerton throughout the Civil War and served as an essential member of the agency until her passing from pneumonia in 1868. She was a leader in the male-dominated field of investigations and continues to be source of inspiration for the Pinkerton company. To learn more about Warne, read Pinkerton’s blog post and this recent Washington Post piece on her career.