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Rediscovering Nancy Drew

Carolyn Stewart Dyer, Nancy Tillman Romalov

Publication Year: 1995

“Rediscovering Nancy Drew is a rich collection of literary memories and insightful cultural comments.�—Journal of Children’s Literature “Nancy, especially the Nancy of the original story, is our bright heroine, chasing down the shadows, conquering our worst fears, giving us a glimpse of our brave and better selves, proving to everybody exactly how admirable and wonderful a thing it is to be a girl. Thank you, Nancy Drew.�—Nancy Pickard “Nancy Drew belongs to a moment in feminist history; it is a moment, I suggest, that we celebrate, allowing ourselves the satisfaction of praising her for what she dared and forgiving her for what she failed to undertake or understand.�—Carolyn G. Heilbrun “Rediscovering Nancy Drew lights up the territory. It informs, delights, and acknowledges through love and scholarship a debt long overdue.�—Dale H. Ross In 1991, women staff and faculty at the University of Iowa discovered that the pseudonymous author of the original Nancy Drew books, Carolyn Keene, was none other than Mildred Wirt Benson, the first person to earn a master's degree in journalism at Iowa. The excitement caused by their discovery led to the 1993 Nancy Drew Conference, which explored the remarkable passion for Nancy Drew that spans a wide spectrum of American society. The result: a lively collaboration of essays by and interviews with mystery writers, collectors, publishers, librarians, scholars, journalists, and fans which presents a spirited, informative, totally enjoyable tribute to the driver of that blue roadster so many readers have coveted.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

The Nancy Drew Conference at the University of Iowa, April 16-18, 1993, was one part of the Nancy Drew Project, which included adult reading groups at two public libraries, an essay contest for Iowa schoolchildren, solve-a-mystery dinners for young adults, and a...

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The Nancy Drew Phenomenon: Rediscovering Nancy Drew in Iowa

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pp. 1-9

Like all jobs, being undergraduate secretary in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa has its slow moments, especially in the summer. Susan Redfern was new to the job in the summer of 1991. She anticipated that slow...

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1. Nancy Drew: A Moment in Feminist History

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pp. 11-21

Nancy Drew-the original Nancy Drew, written by that active woman Mildred Benson-is a moment in the history of feminism. Almost all the critics writing about Nancy Drew have read the later novels, not written by Mildred Benson, and the revisions of the...

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Part I. Creating and Publishing Nancy Drew

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pp. 23-87

Nancy Drew was the last creation of Edward Stratemeyer, who perfected the process of developing, mass producing, and marketing exceptionally popular children's series books. Signing writers to contracts that bound them to secrecy about their part in the...

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2. From Paragraphs to Pages: The Writing and Development of Stratemeyer Syndicate Series

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pp. 29-40

For almost a century Edward Stratemeyer and the syndicate he created have been turning out successful series, enthralling millions of readers. Born in 1862, Stratemeyer started writing boys' stories in the 1880s under various pseudonyms. About 1905 he realized...

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3. Publishing the Applewood Reprints

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pp. 41-46

This is about what happens at the sausage factory1 how Applewood Books came to reissue the original Nancy Drew books and the processes we went through to bring them out. Applewood Books was founded in 1976. Since 1981 it has been...

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4. The History of the Stratemeyer Books: Questions and Answers

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pp. 47-51

Didn't Mildred Wirt Benson sign away her rights to authorship? And if she did, how is she now able to state that she was the original author of Nancy Drew...

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5. Searching for Carolyn Keene

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pp. 52-58

The Nancy Drew Conference brought to an end a very long chapter of my life and the conclusion of a dream I've had for almost thirty years. It's a story with many parts, but I'm going to focus on the part I played in solving the mystery of Carolyn Keene...

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6. Fulfilling a Quest for Adventure

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pp. 59-65

"Fog" was the bob-tailed title of the short story printed in Lutheran Young Folks in 1935 (Wirt). My eye fell upon the yellowing issue as it tumbled from an old filing cabinet. The story bore my name, Mildred Augustine Wirt, a Ladora, Iowa, graduate of the University of Iowa...

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7. Fashioning the New Nancy Drews

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pp. 66-72

I have the job Nancy Drew fans dream about. I spend hours and hours reading Nancy Drew books and I get paid for it. When I took this dream job, nearly nine years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. I had vague knowledge of the Stratemeyer Syndicate...

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8. Assuming the Role: Writing the New Nancy Drews

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pp. 73-78

The summer I was ten I read nothing but Nancy Drew. The first one I read was a castoff, my cousin's copy of The Ghost ofBlackwood Hall (1948). I read it because, at that point, ghost stories were my favorite kind of book. I'm not sure I realized that I was getting something very different...

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9. The New Nancy Drew Series: Questions and Answers

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pp. 79-87

How long does it take you to write a book? KEENE: Actually it really depends on the book. From the time the outline is approved, we're generally given six weeks to get out the first draft. And some of them have gone much more quickly than others. And that generally depends, finally, on how strong...

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Part II. Reading Nancy Drew, Reading Stereotypes

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pp. 89-142

In numerous newspaper and magazine profiles, women of accomplishment have cited their reading "all the Nancy Drew books" as a central experience in their childhood, leading them to understand that their horizons were unlimited and introducing them to the joys...

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10. "Reading" the Stories of Reading: Nancy Drew Testimonials

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pp. 95-112

In her book Writing a Womans Life, Carolyn Heilbrun writes, "I suspect that female narratives will be found where women exchange stories, where they read and talk collectively of ambitions, and possibilities, and accomplishments" (Heilbrun, 46). And what...

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11. Children's Series Books and the Rhetoric of Guidance: A Historical Overview

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pp. 113-120

Whether children's reading of mass-marketed series books should be encouraged or discouraged is the subject of a longraging debate. This essay will provide a bit of historical background to the debate. For to fully understand the controversy we need to...

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12. Using Series as Bait in the Public Library

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pp. 121-123

As a librarian I am charged with the selection of high-quality materials. This mandate presents a problem for librarians faced with the decision whether or not to purchase mass-marketed series books. For some professionals the decision is clear-cut. Series...

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13. Series Books and Competing Mandates in the School Library

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pp. 124-128

Ever since I received the invitation to participate in the Nancy Drew Conference every piece of paper and every journal that crossed my desk seemed to relate in some way to this topic. One article that came my way talked about the library as passport to the universe...

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14. Nancy Drew and the Myth of White Supremacy

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pp. 129-135

My intention in this essay is to examine the Nancy Drew books within the historical context of the myth of white supremacy in the period leading up to the 1930 publication of the first books in the Nancy Drew series. As a prefatory note, I would add that since the subject...

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15. Fixing Nancy Drew: African American Strategies for Reading

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pp. 136-139

I began reading Nancy Drew books when I was in third grade because I was tired of reading picture books and wanted to read chapter books. The first Nancy Drew book I read was The Secret of the Old Clock (1959). I read the revised editions from which most...

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16. Befriending Nancy Drew across Cultural Boundaries

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pp. 140-142

I used to love reading Nancy Drew books. I'm one of those readers who has a vague impression in the back of her mind that Nancy was great, but I can't tell you a thing that happened in any of these books. I just remember that she was so wonderful and that I couldn't...

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Part III. Collecting and Studying Nancy Drew

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pp. 143-186

Most of the factual information that we have about Nancy Drew's history, like other aspects of popular culture, has been painstakingly unearthed by the tireless digging of ardent fans and collectors of series books. Because these mass-produced products...

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17. An Interview with David Farah

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pp. 152-158

Could you explain how you started collecting Nancy Drews? FARAH: I got my early Nancy Drews from my brother, who had bought them at a garage sale. He had the early Mildred Wirt Benson copies, so, although I was born in the 1950s, the Nancy Drews that I...

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18. Yellowback Library and the Collector

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pp. 159-162

I began reading series books in the first or second grade, even before realizing that they were series books. These were the approved books on the library lists in our county: Miss Pickerell's adventures, Pippi Longstockings, the Mushroom Planet books...

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19. A Bibliographic Mystery: Missing Books, Missing Authors

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pp. 163-169

There are two parts to this bibliographic mystery: the books that were not there in the library and the author, who was missing from the catalog. Let us look first at the Case of the Missing Books...

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20. The Case of the Missing Manuscripts: Doing Archival Research on Children's Series Authors

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pp. 170-178

So begins Quarry Ghost, the last novel written by Mildred Wirt Benson. The book was published in 1959 by Dodd, Mead, and Co., although it almost didn't make it into print. A letter written by Benson to her publisher reads in part...

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21. Mildred Wirt Benson Books and the Iowa Authors Collection

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pp. 179-180

In addition to the Iowa Women's Archives holdings of Mildred Wirt Benson manuscripts, the University of Iowa Special Collections Department also houses in its Iowa Authors Collection copies of the published novels written by Mildred Wirt Benson...

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22. Sources for Research on Nancy Drew

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pp. 181-186

It is fitting to note that academic interest in reading Nancy Drew first drew the attention of educators at the University of Iowa. It was on the Iowa campus in 1967 that G. Robert Carlsen, then a University of Iowa professor, wrote Books and the Teen-age Reader...

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Part IV. Transforming Nancy Drew

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pp. 187-238

The name and image of Nancy Drew as a plucky and persistent sleuth have had remarkable durability in the last sixty-five years despite numerous changes as the publishers attempted to make new books appeal more to contemporary audiences of children...

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23. Translating Nancy Drew from Print to Film

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pp. 193-207

Nancy Drew has the distinction of remaining a teenager over a span of more than six decades. She sprang Athena-like out of the head of Edward Stratemeyer in 1930, but her stout heart and generous mind were steeled by Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote...

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24. I Owe It All to Nancy Drew

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pp. 208-211

When I was ten years old, I wrote: "I will be happy if I can have horses, solve mysteries, help people, and be happily married." In that order. For thirty years after that, I forgot on any conscious level about that wish list. When I finally came across it again, I was...

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25. Nancy and Carlotta: Lives Together, Worlds Apart

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pp. 212-214

"I'm afraid there's more to this than appears on the surface." That's what Nancy says in the 1948 Ghost of Blackwood Hall (138). And I agree with her. It goes back a long way ... I recall the names of my two auditorium teachers as if I'd attended grade school yesterday...

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26. Adult Mystery Writers: Questions and Answers

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pp. 215-225

Is there something you like about writing mysteries that you don't get in other novel genres? PICKARD: Yes. I wouldn't get a paycheck if I wrote other types of novels...

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27. Drawing on a Sleuth: The Case of the Nancy Drew Series

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pp. 226-238

My Nancy Drew Series of artworks is concerned with the nature of detection, with the ways we see and the ways in which we solve puzzles. Also, this series is concerned with the nature of artmaking, how we depict the world, how we create shorthand visual...

Nancy Drew Titles, 1930- 1994

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pp. 239-246

Books by Mildred Wirt Benson

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pp. 247-252


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pp. 253-269


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pp. 271-274


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pp. 275-281

E-ISBN-13: 9781587290565
E-ISBN-10: 1587290561
Print-ISBN-13: 9780877455011
Print-ISBN-10: 0877455015

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 1995

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Wirt, Mildred A. (Mildred Augustine), 1905- -- Characters -- Nancy Drew.
  • Girls -- Books and reading -- United States.
  • Series (Publications) -- Bibliography.
  • Drew, Nancy (Fictitious character).
  • Stratemeyer, Edward, 1862-1930.
  • Young adult fiction -- Publishing.
  • Teenage girls in literature.
  • Feminism and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Young adult fiction, American -- History and criticism.
  • Feminist fiction, American -- History and criticism.
  • Film noir ǂz United States ǂx History and criticism.
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