What might be less evident, though, is that one of the central characters was also inspired by a real person. Sara Howard, the secretary-turned-sleuth played by Dakota Fanning, was modeled after Isabella Goodwin, the first female detective in the New York City police department.
Just like Sara in the show, Goodwin was hired by Roosevelt—one of the first women to find work in the police. While Sara is introduced as Roosevelt’s secretary, Goodwin, a widow, was employed as a “jail matron”, tasked with looking after female prisoners and children in custody. However, during her 15 years in this job, Goodwin would go undercover to investigate crimes, most famously solving a daylight robbery case that 60 other detectives had been unable to crack.
This victory led to Goodwin being appointed the first female detective in New York, with the rank of 1st grade lieutenant and a salary of more than twice what she had previously been paid. Goodwin worked as a detective for another 15 years, even after remarrying—highly uncommon for a woman in the early 20th Century.
This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.
The Alienist takes some liberties with the specifics of Goodwin’s story in the character of Sara, however the broad strokes remain the same; Sara had lost her father at the beginning of the series, rather than a husband, and is initially recruited in a junior position before proving her worth as a detective. Most significantly, Sara channels the strong-minded spirit and intellect that made Goodwin such an historic figure.
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io
Send your news and stories to us email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and WhatsApp: +447747873668.
Before you go...
Democratic norms are being stress-tested all over the world, and the past few years have thrown up all kinds of questions we didn't know needed clarifying – how long is too long for a parliamentary prorogation? How far should politicians be allowed to intervene in court cases? To monitor these issues as closely as we have in the past we need your support, so please consider donating to The Climax News Room.