Sister Sleuths written by Nell Darby and published by Pen & Sword Books – £19.99 – Softcover – Pages 216.
The 1857 Divorce Act paved the way for a new career for women: that of the private detective. To divorce, you needed proof of adultery – and men soon realised that women were adept at infiltrating households and befriending wives, learning secrets and finding evidence. Whereas previously, women had been informal snoops within their communities, now they were getting paid for it, toeing a fine line between offering a useful service and betraying members of their sex for money.
Over the course of the next century, women became increasingly confident in gaining work as private detectives, moving from largely unrecognised helpers to the police and to male detectives, to becoming owners of their own detective agencies. In fiction, they were depicted as exciting creatures needing money and work; in fact, they were of varying ages, backgrounds and marital status, seeking adventure and independence as much as money. Former actresses found that detective work utilised their skills at adopting different roles and disguises; former spiritualists were drafted into denounce frauds and stayed to become successful private eyes; and several female detectives became keen supporters of the women’s suffrage movement, having seen for themselves how career-minded women faced obstacles in British society.
I really do enjoy these books published by Pen & Sword Books, they publish such a wide variety of subjects with women as the central theme of the book. This book is certainly no different in that it takes a look at the role of women in the detective industry. Now I know the role of women has been down played in most industries throughout history, but I think we certainly have one profession here where women could greatly do a better job than most men. If only we knew about it and they were given the right to the job. This book properly looks at female sleuthing from the start of the 19th century through to the mid 20th century. It looks at how women were used, the type of crimes they could help against and with, and where women were stronger at certain jobs and detecting than men were. It also goes a lot into the types of women that carried out this work and why. This is a very good book indeed and certainly one I would recommend to others, the only slight downside to it is that it was quite UK centric and it would be good to read a similar titled book but including some American female sleuthing too.