A lively exploration of the struggles faced by women in law enforcement and mystery fiction for the past 175 years
In 1910, Alice Wells took the oath to join the all-male Los Angeles Police Department. She wore no uniform, carried no weapon, and kept her badge stuffed in her pocketbook. She wasn’t the first or only policewoman, but she became the movement’s most visible voice.
Police work from its very beginning was considered a male domain, far too dangerous and rough for a respectable woman to even contemplate doing, much less take on as a profession. A policewoman worked outside the home, walking dangerous city streets late at night to confront burglars, drunks, scam artists, and prostitutes. To solve crimes, she observed, collected evidence, and used reason and logic—traits typically associated with men. And most controversially of all, she had a purpose separate from her husband, children, and home. Women who donned the badge faced harassment and discrimination. It would take more than seventy years for women to enter the force as full-fledged officers.
Yet within the covers of popular fiction, women not only wrote mysteries but also created female characters that handily solved crimes. Smart, independent, and courageous, these nineteenth- and early twentieth-century female sleuths (including a healthy number created by male writers) set the stage for Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski, Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, as well as TV detectives such as Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison and Law and Order’s Olivia Benson. The authors were not amateurs dabbling in detection but professional writers who helped define the genre and competed with men, often to greater success.
Pistols and Petticoats tells the story of women’s very early place in crime fiction and their public crusade to transform policing. Whether real or fictional, investigating women were nearly always at odds with society. Most women refused to let that stop them, paving the way to a modern professional life for women on the force and in popular culture.
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Erika Janik is an award-winning writer, historian, and the executive producer of Wisconsin Life on Wisconsin Public Radio. She’s the author of five previous books, including Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
Table of Contents
Sleuths in Skirts
Sisterhood Behind Bars
The First Policewomen
Breaking Through the Ranks
From Mothers to Crime Fighters
Women Detectives Today
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
[I received this trade paperback book from the publisher and voluntarily reviewed it] " In 1952, Lilian Wyles,one of the first sergeants of the London Metropolitan Police Force wrote:' Prejudice dies hard in police circles: it has been dying these thirty years and is not quite dead today'. Wylie foresaw a day when the 'convulsive shudder' of opposition to police women would be dead and buried. More than half a century later, that day still has not come." This book traces the history of women authors in crime fiction. It also follows the history of women in police departments. There is a major correlation in how women are seen both in reality and in fiction. Non-fiction that reads as it's own trophe,Erika Janik has written a thesis-worthy tome that should be on the shelf of every mystery writer and feminist historian in the country. Her premise of knowing the history of the genre should change authors and publishers alike. Highly recommended.
A smart and engaging look at the evolution of women in the field of law enforcement - both fact and fiction - since policing began to take shape in the nineteenth century. We see the precursors for Miss Marple all the way up to Kinsey Millhone, and how fiction and reality informed each other. Really lovely book; glad I read it. Full Disclosure: I received my copy of the book through Librarything's Early Reviewer program.