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The female private detective, in her own words.

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(These don't seem to be interesting most of you, based on the lack of feedback where I post them, but I find these to be interesting and full of potential useful information. Also, occasionally, full of the biases of the era, as the following is).

From the Kansas City Star, reprinted in the Japan Advertiser, 28 Aug. 1921:
 

WOMEN MAKE BETTER SLEUTHS THAN MEN, SAYS AGENCY HEAD


"Marvelous, Dr. Holmes. But I do not yet understand how you discovered the murderer."

"Really, Watson, at times you make me despair," the great detective replied, as she whisked on her evening gloves. "The murderer is one of my best friends. She told me everything at tea."

The detective story of the future will read like this, according to the predictions of officials of one of London's noted private detective agencies, whose success in employing women detectives has raised the following question:

Are women cleverer detectives than men?

Although almost every hero of a detective story from Sherlock Holmes to Craig Kennedy has been a man is it possible that this attribute of the man, like so many others, is to be unceremoniously snatched from him? 
 

Girl Solves Tangles


Is the legendary Holmes, smoking his pipe in the firelight of a Baker street flat, in temper a misogynist and inexorably following out the cold, dry processes of his reasoning, to the dismay of the underworld, to be supplanted by the figure of a brisk, attractive young woman who detects a criminal as she would a bad dancer?

London, home of Sherlock Holmes, calmly faces these questions at the present moment, owing to the recent achievements of the agency which was unraveled a number of enigmas which had baffled some of the leading criminologists of Europe. A girl detective, 17 years old, has far surpassed the feats of the detective story heroes, or, for that matter, of Scotland Yard. In a recent divorce case she knew more of the complication than either respondent or co-respondent. In less than a fortnight she solved the problem of a series of thefts in a London college, which had stumped a man investigator there for months. Disguised as a student, she ferreted out the thief and the hiding place of the stolen goods. In every stage of the case she was aided by a team of women detectives.

The agency for which she works employs men, but the bulk of the work--all of it except the unpleasant task of shadowing--is performed by the girl detectives.
 

Intuition Helps


Miss Maud West, chief of the agency, is an advocate of the theory that women, gifted with intuition, is endowed with a finer sort of detective ability than man. Seated at her desk and adjusting a yellow chrysanthemum in a tall vase, in an office with 2-inch deep carpet, Prussian papered walls and New Art statuettes, which would conspire to disarm the too clever criminal who visited it in pursuit of Poe's Purloined Letter theory of hiding, Miss West stated the hypothesis on which she has tracked down hundreds of criminals.

"I employ women," said Miss West, "in every investigation requiring subtlety, craft, guesswork, diplomatic conversation or plain common sense. In cases demanding patient shadowing, or strict adherence to tradition, I use men.

"For the finer and more delicate work I invariably find that a woman is able to clear up a case in much less time than a man. She has more tact, quicker perception, and an equally vivid imagination. Of course they are not able to shadow a criminal. A woman cannot stand in one place without attracting attention to herself, and she hasn't the same physical endurance."
 

Women's Methods


Miss West told of a recent case in which a wife had run away from her husband. A woman detective ascertained that she had a confidential friend who lived on the Continent. going abroad, she became this woman's bosom confidante. One day she led the conversation to the disappearance of Mrs. Smith and obtained the address at which she was living in England, in a private hotel.

Another woman detective went as a guest to the hotel and amused the company by telling fortunes with cards. When Mrs. Smith's turn came she listened in amazement to secrets which only one woman knew--fresh from the agency's card-filing index system.

Quite obviously no man could have proceeded by this simple and direct route. Instead, acting on scientific principles, and proceeding by clews, he would have had to follow Mrs. Smith from hotel to hotel, city to city, employing an army of watchers and spies who would have been constantly exposed to danger.
 

Derides Fiction
 

As to the other type of man detective, the deductive type, who sits by the fireside and, nonchalantly inhaling the smoke from a meerschaum, solves the murders and finds precious necklaces, Miss West is inclined to think he doesn't exist, and that he is the creation of highly romantic minds outside the detective business.

"Do you never read detective stories?" I asked.

"Never," she replied. "No detective does. It never is the reflective, fireside type of detective who does anything really, while the one who employs unromantic, common sense methods is successful. Not a girl in this agency would solve a case if she followed fiction methods."

The truth is, according to Miss West, that theories are of little value in the detective's business, while common sense is valuable. And the Bernard Shaw theory, if any, applied to the detective profession, accounts for women's success in it--viz., that she intuitively adheres to common sense instead of plodding after romantic chimeras.

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On September 2nd, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC), panmodal commented:
I'm fascinated, actually--I just don't really have much to say but, "hey, neat!"
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On September 2nd, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC), ratmmjess replied:
Thanks! I figure most people are reading without commenting, but sometimes I get insecure. :-)
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On September 3rd, 2010 01:39 am (UTC), pollopeligroso replied:
If this were facebook, it would definitely be liked.
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On September 2nd, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC), m_faustus replied:
I agree. The Japanese woman detective agency was fascinating, but it seemed like there wasn't much to say. Although, in such a rigid society as 1920s Japan I am curious as to how effective women could be in some cases.

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On September 2nd, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC), panmodal replied:
I'd imagine that they would be especially effective in certain kinds of cases, because they would be underestimated and effectively "invisible" (two wealthy male conspirators might very well consider themselves "alone" and free to do business while serving girls glide in and out of the room, and each has a giggling escort on his lap).
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On September 2nd, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC), panmodal replied:
Also, they could take statements from female informants and witnesses who might not speak openly to a male detective (or even venture out to his office unescorted).
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On September 2nd, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC), nosybrat replied:
What They Said
If it's any consolation I logged into my livejournal to leave this comment, which is, not usual let us say. I'm very interested in these pieces, but I've only recently come to them since I've followed you on Twitter, about three weeks or so maybe a month. They are actually inspirational, in a sense, giving me lots of ideas and fodder and tangents for all sorts of creative projects I have cooking, which I won't bore you with because, lo and behold, this is turning into a paragraph and that's never a good sign with me and a comment. Love your work, and am always entertained by your postings here and on Twitter, so cheers! -Greg
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On September 2nd, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC), ratmmjess replied:
Re: What They Said
Thanks!
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On September 2nd, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC), ffutures replied:
same here.
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On September 2nd, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC), ysidro commented:
Count me in as "fascinated but with nothing to add".
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On September 2nd, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC), black13 commented:
Like Panmodal says -- I'm fascinated, but don't really have anything relevant to say. Please continue this. This is absolutely thrilling.
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On September 2nd, 2010 03:40 pm (UTC), shsilver commented:
As it happens, I came across this immediately after reading an article in today's Chicago Tribune which discusses the possibility that the first female police officer in the US began working for the Chicago Police Department in the 1890s.
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On September 2nd, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC), planetx commented:
I love these. They are sparking my imagination something fierce.

Please post as many as you find!
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On September 2nd, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC), martinhesselius commented:

I like --
Thank you!
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On September 2nd, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
Excellent stuff
Very enjoyable - thanks for sharing. Looking forward to your next post.

Fiona
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On September 2nd, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC), zornhau commented:
Yes, this is amazing stuff
Are you going to use it?
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On September 2nd, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC), zenkitty_714 commented:
Found this entry through a retweet on Twitter. Hope you don't mind I friended you; I want to read more from you! Fascinating stuff, on many levels!
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On September 2nd, 2010 06:18 pm (UTC), madame_crush commented:
Adding to the "fascinated but silent" crowd. It's always a good day to find a link to here in your Twitter.
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On September 2nd, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC), caprine commented:
This is quite delightful. Thanks for posting!
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On September 2nd, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC), donsimpson commented:
Not Quite Off-Topic
"...from Sherlock Holmes to Craig Kennedy...", it says.

I have read a Craig Kennedy book, titled Enter Craig Kennedy (1935), and it was so crammed with weird pulp tropes that if it were a movie it would have been on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The title is not in the lists of Craig Kennedy books and stories in the character and author entries of Wikipedia (and there is a statement that the later stories may not be by Reeve), though it is on another page about Reeve, which also lists and reviews another book by him, Constance Dunlap, Woman Detective (1913):
http://gadetection.pbworks.com/Reeve,-Arthur

The available pages of the Google Books site on You know my method: the science of the detective By J. Kenneth Van Dover have some very mixed remarks on Reeve's work, and a mention of a Craig Kennedy TV show only lasting one season (1954).

Other than the one book (found at an estate sale) I had never heard of Craig Kennedy, "the modern Sherlock Holmes", while the original Holmes is still popular.

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On September 2nd, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC), ratmmjess replied:
Re: Not Quite Off-Topic
Sadly, I've read a lot of Kennedy and Reeve. Ugh.
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On September 2nd, 2010 10:28 pm (UTC), donsimpson replied:
Re: Not Quite Off-Topic
What baffles me is that he seems to have been so popular around ninety years ago. I was guessing that the quality went downhill for one reason or another, but I gather from your remark that it may not have started that far up the hill.
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On September 4th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC), ratmmjess replied:
Re: Not Quite Off-Topic
It's very dated, let's put it that way.
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On September 2nd, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC), princeofcairo commented:
I always love everything you link, adduce, allude to, compile, or write, but then you knew that.

More specifically, this reads like the setup to the Best Veronica Mars Fanfic Evar.
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On September 2nd, 2010 10:23 pm (UTC), tingirl commented:
Glorius! I don't think it's possible to pack an article with any more attitudes of the era. Poor women, they can't shadow, those dainty limbs would get tired!

Yeesh. And poor men, having their "attributes...ripped from them". How traumatic.
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On September 3rd, 2010 02:59 am (UTC), ratmmjess replied:
I know! How dare the women better them at a job? Don't they know that the men are fragile snowflakes?
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On September 3rd, 2010 03:31 am (UTC), badger commented:
I'm fascinated, I just rarely have anything to *add* to the post.
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On September 3rd, 2010 11:22 am (UTC), uvula_fr_b4 commented:
On a tangential note....
...it's interesting how the "women are better assassins than men" trope feeds into (and reinforces) male anxiety towards women.

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