Anna Katharine Green

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Anna Katharine Green
Born(1846-11-11)November 11, 1846
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
DiedApril 11, 1935(1935-04-11) (aged 88)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Genrespoetry, detective fiction
(m. 1884)
Children3, including Roland

Anna Katharine Green (November 11, 1846 – April 11, 1935) was an American poet and novelist. She was one of the first writers of detective fiction in America and distinguished herself by writing well plotted, legally accurate stories.[1] Green has been called "the mother of the detective novel".[2]

Life and work[edit]

Green was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 11, 1846.[1] She had an early ambition to write romantic verse and corresponded with Ralph Waldo Emerson. When her poetry failed to gain recognition, she produced her first and best known novel, The Leavenworth Case (1878), praised by Wilkie Collins, and the hit of the year. She became a bestselling author, eventually publishing 37 books over 40 years.[3]

On November 25, 1884, Green married the actor and stove designer, and later noted furniture maker, Charles Rohlfs (1853 – 1936).[4] Rohlfs toured in a dramatization of Green's The Leavenworth Case. After his theater career faltered, he became a furniture maker in 1897, and Green collaborated with him on some of his designs. Together they had one daughter and two sons: Rosamund Rohlfs, Roland Rohlfs, and Sterling Rohlfs. Her daughter Rosamund married Robert Twitty Palmer.[citation needed]

Green died on April 11, 1935, in Buffalo, New York, at the age of 88.[1] Her husband died the following year.

Critical response[edit]

Though Green's book The Leavenworth Case is frequently cited as the first mystery written by an American woman, The Dead Letter by Seeley Regester was published earlier (1866).[2]

In a discussion of women writers of detective fiction, scholar Ellen Higgins in 1994 chronicled the work of Green as popularizing the genre a decade before Arthur Conan Doyle brought out his first Sherlock Holmes story. "I only found out afterward that some people were a little upset with it because they don't want to hear about women competing with the master", Higgins said.[5]

Green is credited with shaping detective fiction into its classic form, and developing the series detective. Her main character was detective Ebenezer Gryce of the New York Metropolitan Police Force, but in three novels he is assisted by the nosy society spinster Amelia Butterworth, the prototype for Miss Marple, Miss Silver and other creations. She also invented the 'girl detective': in the character of Violet Strange, a debutante with a secret life as a sleuth. Indeed, as journalist Kathy Hickman writes, Green "stamped the mystery genre with the distinctive features that would influence writers from Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle to contemporary authors of suspenseful "whodunits". In addition to creating elderly spinster and young female sleuths, Green's innovative plot devices included dead bodies in libraries, newspaper clippings as "clews", the coroner's inquest, and expert witnesses. Yale Law School once used her books to demonstrate how damaging it can be to rely on circumstantial evidence. Written in 1878, her first book, The Leavenworth Case: A Lawyer's Story, sparked a debate in the Pennsylvania State Senate over whether the book could "really have been written by a woman".[6]

Green was in some ways a progressive woman for her time—succeeding in a genre dominated by male writers—but she did not approve of many of her feminist contemporaries, and she was opposed to women's suffrage.


In 2002, Buffalo Literary Walking Tours began an annual series of weekend walking tours highlighting authors with local connections. Green is included along with Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Taylor Caldwell, and others.[7]

Green's short story "The Intangible Clue" featuring Violet Strange was adapted by Chris Harrald for the second series of BBC Radio 4's drama series The Rivals and starred Jeany Spark as Violet Strange.[8]

Selected works[edit]

Cover of The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow by Anna Katharine Green
Detective and mystery novels
  • The Leavenworth Case (1878)[1] Mr. Gryce #1
  • A Strange Disappearance (1880) Mr. Gryce #2
  • The Sword of Damocles: A Story of New York Life (1881) Mr. Gryce #3
  • Hand and Ring (1883) Mr. Gryce #4
  • Behind Closed Doors (1888) Mr. Gryce #5
  • A Matter of Millions (1891) Mr. Gryce #6
  • The Doctor, His Wife, and the Clock (1895) Mr. Gryce #7. Novellette, shorter than the others
  • That Affair Next Door (1897) (Amelia Butterworth I). Also Mr. Gryce #8
  • Lost Man's Lane: a Second Episode in the Life of Amelia Butterworth (1898) Also Mr. Gryce #9
  • The Circular Study (1900) (Amelia Butterworth III) Also Mr. Gryce #10
  • One of my Sons (1901) Mr. Gryce #11
  • Initials Only (color frontispiece by Arthur Keller) (1911) Mr. Gryce #12
  • The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow (1917) Mr. Gryce #13
  • X Y Z: A Detective Story (1883)
  • The Mill Mystery (1886)
  • 7 to 12: A Detective Story (1887)
  • One Hour More (1887)
  • Forsaken Inn (1890)
  • Cynthia Wakeham's Money (1892)
  • Miss Hurd: An Enigma (1894)
  • Doctor Izard (1895)
  • Agatha Webb (1899) Caleb Sweetwater #1
  • The Filigree Ball: Being a Full and True Account of the Solution of the Mystery Concerning the Jeffrey-Moore Affair (1903)
  • The Millionaire Baby (illustrations by Arthur I. Keller) (1905)
  • The Chief Legatee (1906)
  • The Woman in the Alcove (illustrations by Arthur I. Keller) (1906) Caleb Sweetwater #2
  • The Mayor's Wife (illustrations by Alice Barber Stephens (1907)
  • The House of the Whispering Pines (1910) Caleb Sweetwater #3
  • Three Thousand Dollars (1910)
  • Dark Hollow (1914)
  • The Step on the Stair (1923)
Other novels
  • The Defence of the Bride, and other Poems (1882)
  • Risifi's Daughter, a Drama (1887)
  • Marked "Personal", A Drama Within a Drama. (1893)
  • To the Minute; Scarlet and Black: Two Tales of Life's Perplexities (1916)
Short novels and short stories
  • The Old Stone House and Other Stories (1891) featuring:[9][10]
    • "The Old Stone House"
    • "A Memorable Night"
    • "The Black Cross"
    • "A Mysterious Case"
    • "Shall He Wed Her?"
  • A Difficult Problem: The Staircase at the Heart's Delight, and Other Stories (1900) featuring:[11]
    • "A Difficult Problem" (1900)
    • "The Grey Madam" (1899)
    • "The Bronze Hand" (1897)
    • "Midnight in Beauchamp Row" (1895)
    • "The Staircase at the Hearts delight" (1894)
    • "The Hermit of ― Street" (1898)
  • Room Number 3, and Other Detective stories (1913) featuring:[12][13]
    • "Room Number 3"
    • "Midnight in Beauchamp Row"
    • "The Ruby and the Caldron"
    • "The Little Steel Coils"
    • "The Staircase at Heart's Delight"
    • "The Amethyst Box"
    • "The Grey Lady"
    • "The Thief"
    • "The House in the Mist"
  • Masterpieces of Mystery (1913)
    • Short story collection. The stories are also collected in Room number 3 and A Difficult Problem.
  • The Golden Slipper, and Other Problems for Violet Strange (1915) featuring:[14]
    • "The Golden Slipper"
    • "The Second Bullet"
    • "The Intangible Clew"
    • "The Grotto Spectre"
    • "The Dreaming Lady"
    • "The House of Clocks"
    • "The Doctor, His Wife, and the Clock" *shorter version of the novella.
    • "Missing: Page Thirteen"
    • "Violet's Own"


  1. ^ a b c d A. K. Green Dies (PDF). April 12, 1935. Noted Author, 88. 'The Leavenworth Case' in '78 Followed by 36 Other Books. Wife of Charles Rohlfs. Wanted to Write Poetry. Wrote Detective Stories to Draw Attention to Her Verse. Changed Mystery Fiction {{cite book}}: |newspaper= ignored (help)
  2. ^ a b Penzler, Otto (November 16, 2005). "A Deadly Month". The New York Sun. New York: Ronald Weintraub. [Green] is frequently, inaccurately, described as the mother of the detective novel by virtue of having written The Leavenworth Case, which is said to be the first mystery written by an American woman. But the honor rightfully belongs to Seeley Regester [1831-1885], with her 1866 novel The Dead Letter.
  3. ^ Sussex, Lucy (2010). Women Writers and Detectives in Nineteenth Century Crime Fiction: The Mothers of the Mystery Genre. New York: Palgrave McMillan.
  4. ^ "Charles Rohlfs, Designer, is Dead" (PDF). The New York Times. July 1, 1936. Manufacturer, 83, Is Credited With Having Originated Mission Furniture. Began Career on Stage. Starred in Mystery Drama Taken From Novel by Wife Anna Katharine Green
  5. ^ Grondahl, Paul (January 15, 1995). "Secret to longevity? Elementary, for Holmes while the Master happily tends bees in the Sussex countryside, his fans each January 6 fete him on his birthday". The Times Union. Colonie, New York: George Randolph Hearst III. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
  6. ^ Hickman, Kathy (November 25, 2006). "Sisters in Crime hit Local Library". The Sun Chronicle. Attleboro, Massachusetts: Oreste P. D'Arconte.
  7. ^ "Travel". The Daily News (Batavia). Batavia, New York: Johnson Newspaper Corporation. July 14, 2004. p. 8A.
  8. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - the Rivals, Series 2, the Intangible Clue".
  9. ^ Green, Anna Katharine (1891). The Old Stone House and Other Stories. G. P. Putnam's sons. (via Google Books)
  10. ^ Green, Anna Katharine (1891). The Old Stone House and Other Stories.(via Project Gutenberg)
  11. ^ Green, Anna Katharine (1900). A Difficult Problem: The Staircase at the Heart's Delight, and Other Stories. F.M. Lupton Publishing Company. (via Google Books)
  12. ^ Green, Anna Katharine (1913). Room number 3, and other detective stories. University of California Libraries. New York : A.L. Burt. (via Internet Archive)
  13. ^ Green, Anna Katharine (1913). Room Number 3, and Other Detective Stories. (via Project Gutenberg)
  14. ^ Anna Katharine Green, Anna Katharine (Green ) Rohlfs (1915). The Golden Slipper: And Other Problems for Violet Strange. University of Michigan. A. L. Burt company. (via Internet Archive)

Further reading[edit]

  • Giffuni, C. "A Bibliography of Anna Katharine Green", Clues: A Journal of Detection, 8:2 Fall/Winter 1987.
  • Maida, Patricia D. Mother of Detective Fiction: The Life and Works of Anna Katharine Green (1989). Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
  • Murch, Alma. The Development of the Detective Novel (1958). P. Owen, London.
  • Landrum, Larry. American Mystery and Detective Novels: A Reference Guide (1999). Greenwood Press, Westport CT.
  • Frances E. Willard; Mary A. Livermore (eds) "Anna Katharine Green Rohlfs", Woman of the Century, 1893

External links[edit]