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Pistols and Petticoats


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Table of Contents

Detecting Women

Sleuths in Skirts

Sisterhood Behind Bars

Spinster Sleuth

The First Policewomen

Girl Detectives

Breaking Through the Ranks

Hard-Boiled Heroes

From Mothers to Crime Fighters

Women Detectives Today




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.


“A history of the intrepid women who ventured into male territory to solve crimes. Janik investigates nearly two centuries of policewomen, female detectives, and fictional sleuths in this lively look at women’s adventuresome careers...Janik points out that sleuthing seemed a logical career for unmarried women, in both fact and fiction. Agatha Christie’s clever, observant Miss Marple and Dorothy Sayers’s ‘quick-witted’ Miss Katherine Climpson are two examples, among many others. Women broke through police ranks as well, first taking positions as matrons in police stations and prisons, where they forged connections to social workers...Janik creates vivid portraits of many feisty women, including contemporary TV detectives such as Jessica Fletcher of Murder, She Wrote and Jane Tennison of Prime Suspect. An entertaining history of women’s daring, defiant life choices.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“A fascinating mix of the history of early policewomen and their role in crime fiction—positions that were then, and, to some extent even now, in conflict with societal expectations.”
—Library Journal

“A truly exceptional, inherently fascinating, consistently compelling, informed and informative read, Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction is an impressive and unique work of deftly written history combined with a thoughtful and thought-provoking literary study.”
—Midwest Book Review

“Fiction and reality meet and mingle in this fascinating work of cultural history. Who are the great female detectives in literature? Who were their historical precedents? How did they make their way in a predominantly male world, whether we’re talking about the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1861 or SVU on NBC? The best study of this hugely popular genre that I have ever read.”
—William Martin, author of Back Bay and The Lincoln Letter

“Erika Janik does a fine job tracing the history of women in police work while at the same time describing the role of females in crime fiction. The outcome, with a memorable gallery of characters, is a rich look at the ways in which fact and fiction overlap, reflecting the society surrounding them. A treat for fans of the mystery—and who isn’t?”
—Katherine Hill Page, Agatha Award–winning author of The Body in the Belfry and The Body in the Snowdrift

“Vivid, engaging, and informative. Erika Janik presents a fascinating gallery of pioneering female crime solvers and the fictional heroines they inspired.”
—Daniel Stashower, Edgar Award–winning author of The Hour of Peril and Teller of Tales

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