Female frontier detectives – book review of Chris Enss’ The Pinks

Book review – The Pinks
By Chris Enss; 169 pages

Buy the book!

Undiscovered history is that which exists but is not commonly known. The Security Industry has a rich
and diverse amount of such history; much of it known to historians but not to practitioners or even
academics. The Pinks is loaded with undiscovered history and told in an easily read, engaging style by NY
Times best-selling author and licensed private investigator Chris Enss.

Enss uncovers the stories of 12 women who were Pinkerton Agency operatives, paid informants or who
reported to Alan Pinkerton during the American Civil War. Beginning with Kate Warne, who started with
the Agency in 1856 and went on to head the Woman’s Detective Bureau, Enss enthralls the reader with
the exploits of the female operatives and those they worked with. As a result there is additional
perspective given on founder Alan Pinkerton, operative Timothy Webster and others.

Hattie Lewis Lawton was the second woman hired by Pinkerton (1860). She may also have been the first
mixed race detective in history. Hattie worked with Timothy Webster when the two posed as man and
wife in Richmond, VA. Lawton and Webster were captured by the Confederates. Webster was hung –
twice as the first attempt failed – but Hattie was exchanged for other prisoners a few months later. She
also worked with John Scobell, a former slave who had been educated by his master.

These and other tidbits speak volumes about how out in front Pinkerton was. The idea of hiring women
and African Americans during this time period was truly revolutionary. His involvement with the
Underground Railroad in flagrant violation of the Fugitive Slave Act while being America’s leading
investigator; working closely with what police existed at the time speaks volumes about his values. His
being part of a delegation to thwart a reported slave catcher near his home cements his abolitionist
stance and offers an intriguing tactic used to combat the capture of runaway slaves.

Enss describes additional cases handled by female operatives. A fair portion of the book deals with the
assassination plot on President-Elect Abraham Lincoln. Kate Warne played a key role in this operation.
She hung out in places where secessionists could be overheard, gaining key details of the plot. Her role
expanded to carrying a pistol and posing as Lincoln’s sister who was caring for her ill brother on the
covert train ride through Baltimore.

Another fascinating case describes Operative Elizabeth Baker and her work forwarding information to
the Union about Confederate shipbuilding activity including submarines. Freed slave Mary Touvestre
collected information on the rebuilding of the ironclad Merrimac. Six months after her information was
forwarded the Union launched the Monitor, it’s first ironclad which went on to severely damage the

The Pinks belongs on the shelf of history buffs, academicians and security professionals. It sheds new
light on how important the contributions of the Pinkerton Agency was to American history.

Reviewer: Chris Hertig, CPP, CPOI (Certified Protection Officer
Instructor) is a long time member of the ASIS Professional Development
Council. He was the principal author of The Evolution of Asset
Protection & Security chapter in THE PROFESSIONAL PROTCTION
OFFICER, the text for the Certified Protection Officer (CPO) program.


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By |2019-03-08T08:41:29+00:00March 8th, 2019|News|Comments Off on Female frontier detectives – book review of Chris Enss’ The Pinks

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