Library of Congress
Library of Congress

Mary Shanley – better known as Dead Shot Mary – was a detective with the New York Police Department from 1931 to 1957. Shanley was one of the earliest first-grade female detectives. During her time with the NYPD, she was credited with more than 1,000 arrests.

What made Dead Shot Mary so noteworthy? She could reach into her purse, pull out her .32 revolver and halt suspects dead in their tracks.

Wherever Shanley went, she dressed to blend in with the crowd. Although she had no children, she would bring her young niece with her to help catch a crook. She would frequently play the role of a single mother, using her niece as her daughter.

Detective Shanley had a variety of accomplishments during her career. Not only was she promoted on numerous occasions but she was also the first policewoman in the state of New York to utilize a gun in the capture and arrest of a suspect.

Dead Shot Mary was considered a media star. She was frequently written about in newspapers and tabloids.

Bruce Chadwick/History News Network
Bruce Chadwick/History News Network

A one-woman show called “Dead Shot Mary” was started in Manhattan to honor Detective Shanley’s story. Actress Rachel McPhee stars as Mary.

McPhee’s husband, Robert K. Benson, wrote the play after discovering Detective Shanley’s legacy online. McPhee was recruited to play Shanley because she could adequately portray being “a tough old broad married to the job,” but also “go under that veneer and find out who this person was, what was she like at home.”

“They’re bringing attention to what this woman did as a trailblazer in the department, and it’s great to see that brought to life,” Sgt. Nora Ahmed, president Policewomen’s Endowment Association, said. “She’s a phenomenal story, especially in a male-dominated profession.”

Detective Shanley is an example of a powerful woman who doesn’t stand down. She’s not afraid to use her firearm to defeat evil. And neither should we!