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Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  86 ratings  ·  27 reviews
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 voi
Hardcover, 238 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Beacon Press
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Dec 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction by Ericka Janik is a 2016 Beacon Press publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The title of this book grabbed my attention and I simply couldn’t pass it up. With only 248 pages, you know this book is a quick overview, but it has enough information to peak your interest, hold it, and will have you looking up old movie clips, and female detectives in lit
The subtitle of Erika Janik's nonfiction book, Pistols and Petticoats, is "175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction". Although the two subjects should fit together perfectly, they didn't seem to flow as well as they should have in the book. However, if you are interested either in the role of women as police officers and private investigators, or their role in literature, Janik provides an excellent history lesson.

Manik claims the history of interest in crime literature went hand-in-hand
Apr 17, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting combination of subjects which works well at some points and less well at others. The subtitle, “175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction” is a little misleading, as Janik also devotes much attention to women's advancement in non-detective areas of police and prison work.

Janik looks at the ways that the experiences and attitudes of fictional female detectives differ from and coincide with those of their real life counterparts. She points to ways in which fiction may have h
Jan 13, 2018 added it
Shelves: mystery, history
Great topic, but disappointingly executed. Material is poorly synthesised, with the author distracted by irrelevant details. It's a shame - but this really needs a revision as it just doesn't come together. A DNF for me. ...more
Benjamin Thomas
This book offers a unique perspective on the history of women in law enforcement, examining the subject from both a factual and fictional point of view. The two are inevitably tied together but the author does a good job of demonstrating how fictional female detectives and policewomen reflect the times they live in.

The book is broken into chapters by specific subject areas such as “The First Police Woman”, “Spinster Sleuth”, “Girl Detectives” and “Hard Boiled Heroes” but it also leads us through
Mar 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was immediately captivated by the title of this book. It just seemed to roll off the tongue in such an intriguing way. Then I saw the subtitle, “175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction”, I knew I had to read this one. I was not disappointed. The author took me on a fascinating jaunt through a segment of women’s history I’d never considered before. This book highlights the struggles that women faced just to become police officers and how our society’s way of thinking also had to change ...more
I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not altered my views on the book and I strive to provide my unaltered and completely honest option, for better or for worse.

Erika Janik seems to me like the type of person who learns a fact, then gets really excited about it and learns everything possible about the subject. She is clearly enthusiastic and while I found Pistols and Petticoats interesting, it was a little too ambitious and scattered for my tast
J Earl
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pistols and Petticoats from Erika Janik is an interesting overview of women in sleuthing, so to speak, in both fact and fiction. This includes police, private detectives and even the popular unofficial detectives who seem to always stumble into murder mysteries.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive detailed history, not sure one could be done in a single volume. This is meant more as a thematically structured look at the history of women in both real life and fiction who solve crimes. While the
In effect, a timeline of the female sleuth / detective from the 1850s to the 1980s.

Interspersed with the stories of the real female detectives, is a narrative on the development of the fictions counterpart which came about through readers' enjoyment (for want of a better word) of true crime and sensationalist fiction, especially in the USA.

I guess this is what interested me the most - the development of the fictional female detective, and the first true detective story written by Melba Fuller Vi
Andrea Stoeckel
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
[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 autho
Baker St Shelves
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The first book of 2018, and it was not the best way to start out. It's not awful, but it definitely could've been better. A history of both fictional and true life examples women detectives. Sounds like a good read, but it was much drier than than it should've been. And despite the size, it goes much slower than you think. ...more
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
Jul 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Since I was very young I have enjoyed court dramas like Matlock and detective fiction like Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie's mysteries and Sherlock Holmes. I picked up this book on a whim vaguely wondering if it would spend most of it's time taking men over the coals and screaming for women to have more place in policing and fiction crime dramas. But Erika Janik had better things to do. She outlines some histories of detectives in general, how fiction shaped reality and vice verse. She also highligh ...more
Mar 27, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an interesting history but very broad and very shallow. I do enjoy histories like that but there was a lot of sacrificing of a deeper story in order to fit in more information. I really wish this had been two volumes of a hundred or so years each. More details would have made this book more compelling. Instead, it's just story, story, story with no deeper information. But a good book for that all the same.
Women have been detectives in fiction longer than they have IRL. In both streams, i
Apr 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, mysteries
Very sprightly overview of the genre, interspersed with chapters about real historical policewomen/detectives, and a very interesting bit on the long, hard slog it took to get female matrons and officers into womens' prisons. There was actually a proposal in New York at some point to just send female criminals directly into brothels rather than house them in prison or attempt any kind of rehabilitation--once they're fallen, y'know. *facepalm* I was delighted to see the mention of my beloved Phry ...more
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
There are some excellent reviews here which reflect my own views, so I won't repeat those points here.

At first, I thought it would have been better as two books, but nearer the end, I appreciated the compare and contrast of reality vs fiction. For me, not a quick read and somewhat dry in parts. However, I think it would make a good textbook in criminal justice and/or women's studies courses.

Do not miss: the story of Francis Glessner Lee (Chapter 9) and her dioramas!See the excellent documentary
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
May 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I won this book on Goodreads. This is a very well researched book on how women became police officers and detectives in real life and how fiction envolved from no female officers, to only single women to what we have currently. Interesting facts on how women first joined the police forces.
Amy  Eller Lewis
May 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, nonfic-research
I liked this book, which is full of things I didn't know about the history of women and detection. I would have liked it better had she drawn more conclusions, or had a stronger point of view, or a stronger voice. But it worked well for the research I was doing. ...more
Virginia Johnson
Excellent source for historical facts on women police officers in reality, and detectives in fiction!
M.E. Logan
Apr 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
Wonderful, informative book whether you're interested in real women in law enforcement or a reader of mysteries.
M. Fenn
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read that covers a lot of ground. I now have a lot of early detective writers to seek out that I never heard of. 3.5/5
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, to-review, geekery
Reviewed on my blog
Mills College Library
363.25082 J337 2016
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Jul 08, 2017
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Dec 15, 2016
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Jun 19, 2016
Mar 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I received this book from Beacon Press via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, but all opinions are my own.

The book begins with the development of police forces as a whole--it shows how developing a formal force was seen as a way to civilize and modernize a city. You then see how women were included first as prison matrons and then as "good influences" in the prostitution and runaway children units. Policewomen weren't so much meant to solve crimes as deter them. They gradually (very gradu
Jan P
Mar 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2017
Erika Janik wrote a primer of women in law enforcement to include fictional figures as well as real-life women. By law enforcement, I mean private detectives and police as well as those who wrote about them. What I enjoyed most, being a mystery buff, was learning about all the female authors as early as the 1800's who were writing these wonderful tales. While I had read several of them, I look forward to the other ones. A large part of the book is taken up with the real-life woman in law enforce ...more
Alison Billing
rated it liked it
Feb 20, 2021
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Erika Janik is a freelance writer and a radio producer at Wisconsin Public Radio. She is the author of Apple: A Global History, Madison: A History of a Model City, A Short History of Wisconsin, and Odd Wisconsin: Amusing, Perplexing and Unlikely Stories from Wisconsin’s Past.

Interested in nearly everything, Erika writes on local food and drink, Wisconsin history, medical history, and green living,

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