Isn’t it crazy to think that if you weren’t at the right place at the right time, your whole existence will change on a dime? The Butterfly Effect is a wild concept and definitely one I think about with America’s first female detective, Kate Warne.

Hers is not a name that often appears in textbooks. In fact, this may be the first time you’ve heard of Warne at all. Did you know that if it wasn’t for her role, Abraham Lincoln could have been assassinated before his inauguration? This conspiracy event has become known as the “Baltimore Plot”.

The Pinkerton National Detective Agency caught wind of a plan to kill Lincoln by secessionists before his inauguration in 1861. Initially, the detectives were hired to keep an eye on the train route while Lincoln was making his rounds. He was on a whistle-stop tour before the final destination leading Lincoln to be in Washington D.C. However, this part of the trip proved to be even more crucial because Lincoln planned to switch lines…an ideal time to intercept him. 

Since people didn’t associate women with detective work, Warne was able to pose as Lincoln’s sister and ride the train with him as an undercover backup. Lincoln covered himself with a shawl, pretending to be ill to avoid wandering eyes. All the while, Warne was armed with a gun. Ready to fire at a moment’s notice. The logic? At the time, no one would suspect a woman to have ulterior motives if she was traveling with a sick family member. 

Thanks to Warne’s intelligence, the team of agents were proven to be instrumental in thwarting the plan. Even though this has been known as Kate Warne’s highest achievement, we shouldn’t forget how she landed this history-altering position. 

When Warne first saw the job listing for the Pinkerton’s Agency, Allan Pinkerton immediately assumed she was interested in a secretary role. Female detectives and officers were unheard of at the time and the idea of a woman could step up for the role seemed outlandish. But that didn’t stop Warne. In fact, that only sparked her determination. By pointing out what the agency lacked, Warne made the case on why she would be the best candidate. 

Warne explained to Pinkerton that the agency lacked the distinct advantage a woman detective offered. Because this was a man’s job at the time, no one would suspect a woman overhearing the conversations of important people was actually gleaning information on them. 

Pinkerton was convinced and hired Warne. She even herself to be one of the best officers on the team, according to Allan Pinkerton himself. Kate closed many cases by using her feminine traits to her advantage.

I love that Warne didn’t have to sacrifice a part of herself to conform to a job. She ultimately made the job work for her and benefited from it. This is a great lesson in not losing yourself in any aspect of your life, especially if those key parts can help make you stand out from the rest. 

It’s women like Kate Warne that make me think of my mom. No, she isn’t part of law enforcement but she is a woman in a male-dominated field. She is a courier and delivers packages. It’s a simple enough job description, but it is physically demanding and tends to be monotonous. She has to offload packages into her truck, drive them to the location, and then take them out. The weight varies and oftentimes she doesn’t receive much help. If anything, my mom is the first person to volunteer to help another person, which most of the time is when a man can’t pick up his slack. They have underestimated my mom from the start but for over 30 years, she has proven herself to be a dedicated worker and then some. 

People don’t think about these careers since the end result is all they see. The packages being delivered or the cases being closed. Behind the scenes work can be incredibly tiresome and if the environment isn’t conducive, it just makes everything harder. Especially in a field where you don’t find many others like yourself. Women often have to carry the burden of doing more than they should, especially since society keeps underestimating us at every turn. The need to do more to compensate because of some men doing the bare minimum puts an unfair shift in the balance. 

I’m glad to be able to share Kate Warne’s story. Not much is known outside of her role as a detective, but that doesn’t make her any less inspiring. Being “the first woman” of anything is an incredible feat to obtain. One that definitely doesn’t come lightly either. It’s just a painful reminder that society has a long way to go before we don’t need to start every story with this milestone.

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  • Theresa has a deep love for sustainability, animation, and women empowerment. When Theresa isn't writing, she's always ready to rant about Avatar: The Last Airbender or Donald Glover to anyone willing to listen.