WOMEN'S (RARE) DETECTIVE FICTION
The Detective's Album (Mary Fortune, 1871)
Some of the printed matter in this archive is very scarce, such as Mary Fortune's 1871 The Detective's Album, a pioneering police procedural by a woman author, of which only two hard copies survive.
In 1855, a young woman named Mary Helena Fortune travelled from Canada to Australia, with the commission of writing about the goldfields for an English magazine, The Ladies’ Companion. Though she never actually supplied the requested articles, she was to have a long and significant auctorial career in Australia. For over fifty years she published under the pseudonyms ‘Waif Wander’, ‘W. W.’ and her initials, ‘M. H. F.’, in newspapers and popular magazines. The Detective’s Album is described in Macartney and Miller’s Australian Literature (1956) as the ‘first book of detective stories to appear in Australia, by the first woman writer of such stories’. This wording is ambiguous, as if Miller was hesitant to claim that ‘W. W.’ was the first female detective author worldwide. However, at the time the only other claimant for this title was the American Anna Katharine Green, whose immensely popular The Leavenworth Case (1878) had appeared some seven years after The Detective’s Album.
Adapted from: https://victorianfictionresearchguides.org/mary-fortune/
W. W. The Detective's Album: Tales of the Australian Police: by W. W. Clarson, Massina, & Co., Printers and Publishers, 1871
The Leavenworth Case (Anna Katharine Green, 1878)
With the publication of The Leavenworth Case in 1878, Anna Katharine Green launched her career, earning the title Mother of Detective Fiction. In this book, she introduced her serial detective Ebenezer Gryce, a member of New York’s Metropolitan Police Force who made his way up the ladder to become a detective inspector and win the hearts of faithful readers. At the time, Green was thirty-two years old, single, and a college graduate. A quiet but determined woman, she had been writing since childhood, trying her hand at poetry and drama before finding her metier in detective fiction. In the 1920s, detective fiction was entering its Golden Age, and other women in England and the United States had begun to establish careers as writers of detective fiction. For these writers, the legacy of Anna Katharine Green was particularly significant. A woman who had a successful professional career, Anna Katharine Green not only was skilled at her craft, she also provided a voice for society’s victims in her fiction. When she died at her home in Buffalo on 11 April 1935, she had achieved fame for fiction that challenged readers to think, to reconsider social conditions, and—most of all—to enjoy the thrill of a good mystery.
Adapted from: Maida, Patricia D. "Green, Anna Katharine (1846-1935)." Mystery and Suspense Writers: The Literature of Crime, Detection, and Espionage, edited by Robin W. Winks and Maureen Corrigan, vol. 1, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998
Green, Anna Katharine. The Leavenworth Case: A Lawyer's Story: by Anna Katharine Green. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1878