Did you know March is Women’s History month? To celebrate, I’m participating in a BookSweeps promotion giving readers the chance to win a bundle of free female detective books and a new eReader!
For many of us, Nancy Drew was our first experience of the female detective, but the history of women sleuths in fiction goes back quite a bit farther than that. Inspired by women spies of the Civil war and real life detectives, such as the Pinkerton agent, Kate Warne, who helped smuggle Abraham Lincoln away from assassins in Baltimore, authors began putting out mystery stories featuring girls and women.
A short history lesson in women sleuths
Andrew Forrester published The Female Detective in 1864, with the serial adventures of Mrs. Gladden, an undercover police agent. Revelations of A Lady Detective by William Stephens Hayward soon followed, featuring a woman sleuth with the clinical reasoning skills of Sherlock Holmes—decades before Holmes was created!
In 1897, a friend of Arthur Conan Doyle by the name of Anna Katharine Greene, introduced her curious spinster detective, Amelia Butterworth, a forerunner to Christie’s Miss Marple. The character was so successful that she followed up with a series of girl detective stories featuring Miss Violet Strange.
L. Frank Baum, writer of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published his first girl detective story under the pseudonym Edith Van Dyne, and the trend continued through countless intrepid female characters during those early years—Molly Murphy, Ellie Stone, The Darling Dahlias, Jane Bolton, Cherry Ames—and continues strong today with favorites such as Kinsey Milhone, Stephanie Plum, V.I. Warshawski, Jessica Jones, and Precious Ramotswe.
Don’t overlook Riley Forte
If you haven’t yet met the smart and talented Riley Forte, my musical female sleuth and spy-in-training, I hope you’ll check out Nocturne In Ashes or Duet for Piano & Chisel. And be sure to enter the BookSweeps celebration of the female detective for your chance to win a bundle of great books—including Nocturne In Ashes—and maybe even a new eReader.
How about you? Who’s your favorite female detective? Which series have you read and enjoyed? Tell us about it in the comments.
Oh, I loved Cherry Ames when I was growing up. I remember my 6th grade teacher telling me I had to write my next book report on something other than a Cherry Ames book. In my more mature years, I’ve loved V.I. Warshawski, Kinsey Millhone, and Mallory (by Carol O’Connell).
Hi Mary! I’m so glad for your comment. It’s great to find a series you love so much. I’ve cherished many over the years. Thanks so much for sharing your 6th grade memory and some of your favorite female detective reads. Good stuff!