Her goal? Flame the war to help the South secede.
But Allan Pinkerton and his detectives are on to her…
The Pinks is an original, darkly comic spy story about real life Confederate spy Rose Greenhow—a woman in a traditionally male profession— and the Pinkerton agents set on taking her down. In 1861, the Civil War was just a rebellion gaining traction (think: The Tea Party with more guns and matching outfits). A widow and mother of four, Rose used her extensive social network (and extensive charm) to seduce information from senators, military and members of the presidential cabinet to pass on to the Confederacy. She was devastatingly good.
Enter Allan Pinkerton. Pinkerton was a hard-boiled detective, the first of his kind. He was an abolitionist who had worked on the Underground Railroad and offered his detective skills to Abraham Lincoln in service of the Union. Pinkerton suspected Rose was a spy and sent the first female private eye Kate Warne—another woman in a traditionally male profession—undercover to catch her. Once undercover, the lines between hero and villain blur as the people across the political divide come into focus.
While foiling the Pinkertons efforts to find proof against her, Rose manages to seduce secret information from a northern captain. If the information can be passed to General P.G.T. Beauregard it will turn the Battle of Bull Run and change the course of the war. In the end, only death–neither house arrest nor federal prison–will stop Rose from pursuing her southern ideals.
Drawing on graphic novels and film noir, Gold No Trade uses its signature physical style to uncover the fascinating history of two unknown American women. “The Pinks” is a tautly written historical fiction that examines the deeper drives behind Allan Pinkerton and two women: Kate Warne, the first female detective and Confederate spy Rose Greenhow. The play considers how these women, both in traditionally male professions, chose alternate paths to express equally devastating talents. And how only one was able to bridge that divide and tolerate the beliefs of the other.
The Pinks began as an investigation into the motivations behind the South’s secession with the optimism that in among the supporters –fellow Americans—were reasonable people with compelling motivations that one could understand and even relate to.
It is no great leap to see the relevance to contemporary politics, ever stratifying (compare the Tea Party vs. religious fundamentalism vs. Barak Obama). With such divides in values, where can we possibly meet? What is the value of tolerance? Is it all just heroes and villains?
Rose Greenhow : A widow and mother of eight in 1861, Rose Greenhow began passing secret messages to Confederate generals, helping to secure the Southern victory at Bull Run. She was placed under house arrest by the Pinkertons to curtail her activities, but continued to pass Northern military secrets to the South. She was then placed in a federal prison, but is rumored to have still managed to pass information to the South. In 1862 Jefferson Davis sent her to Europe to collect diplomatic intelligence. She also fund-raised extensively for the Confederacy and returned home carrying over $2000 in gold, some of which she sewed into her clothing. Off the coast of North Carolina, a Union gunboat pursued her ship, and Rose boarded a lifeboat. The small craft foundered and she drowned—dragged down by the weight of the gold.
Kate Warne : Little is known about Kate Warne, the first female detective hired by Allan Pinkerton. Most of her biographical information comes from Allan Pinkerton’s Reminiscences years after the fact and has not been corroborated. He describes Kate the first time she walked into his office in 1856 as “a slender, brown-haired woman, graceful in her movements and self-possessed. Her features, although not what could be called handsome, were decidedly of an intellectual cast…her face was honest, which would cause one in distress instinctly (sic) to select her as a confidante…” Accounts vary as to whether she came to Pinkerton for a job as a secretary or a detective, but Pinkerton remembers her convincingly explaining that she could “worm out secrets in many places to which it was impossible for male detectives to gain access”. Pinkerton not only hired her, but by 1860 his agency had an entire female detective branch, headed by Kate Warne. To compare, women were first hired as investigators by the New York City police department in 1903. When she died, Kate was buried next to Pinkerton in his family’s private graveyard.
Allan Pinkerton : In 1852 Allan Pinkerton created The Pinkerton National Detective Agency –the first private agency devoted to solving crime. In 1856 he hired the first female detective, Kate Warne, of whom little is known (see above). Pinkerton was a labor activist in his native Glasgow and worked the Underground Railroad outside of Chicago. His agency stymied train robbers, captured Jesse James and, in 1861, foiled an attempt on the life of president-elect Abraham Lincoln. The term “private eye” derives from his agency’s trademark: an unblinking eye with the slogan “We Never Sleep.” After his death, his sons took over the agency and closed the female detective branch. In time, the agency became known for anti-labor activities.
The Pinks is a work of historical fiction. While it is unknown whether Kate Warne and Rose Greenhow ever met, we like to think they did.
CAST & CREW
Created by Megan Campisi, Max Dana, Jay Dunn, Kevin Lapin, Siobhan Towey and Blake Habermann
Written by Megan Campisi
Direction by Adam Paolozza & Jay Dunn
Lights by Calvin Anderson
Original Music by Jason Sigal
Special Thanks to Emily Rosenkrantz, Bob Delizza and Tara Giordano
Runtime: 75 minutes without intermission.
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Clandestine Women: Spies in American History
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The Wild Rose of Washington
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Wild Rose, Civil War Spy, A Biography of Confederate Spy Rose O’Neale Greenhow (Random House 2005)
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My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington.
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Thirty Years A Detective
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Allan Pinkerton: The First Private Eye
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