Hours. I spent hours curled up with Nancy Drew mysteries as a young girl. She was everything I wanted to be. Smart, brave, loyal and let’s not forget pretty and popular. Yep, Nancy has left her mark on generations of young women.
She was the brainchild of Edward Stratemeyer, owner and founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. He was a genius at coming up with premises for children’s books. Some of his most popular were The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, The Dana Girls, The Rover Boys, Tom Swift and of course, Nancy Drew. He came up with the overarching premise of each series, and then developed detailed outlines for individual stories. These he sent to contract authors for the actual writing. Multiple authors often worked on a single series, but Stratemeyer created pen names for each series before they were published. That’s right. There never was a Carolyn Keene sitting somewhere and dreaming up thrilling plot devices and shady characters for Nancy to puzzle out.
That was Edward, and later, his daughter Harriet's job. They developed detailed outlines for each of the stories in their many series. The outlines were then sent to a ghostwriters to flesh out and write the actual story. A young journalism major from out the midwest, named Mildred Benson was contracted to write the first three stories for the syndicate.
The first Nancy Drew was published in 1930 at what would seem like the worst possible moment. The Great Depression had just begun and would hold America in its terrible grip for years. On top of that, her creator, Edward Stratemeyer died weeks before her first release. Many heroines would have swirled down into the slough of despond when faced with such challenges, but nothing could hold back plucky Nancy Drew and her sporty blue roadster. Despite the money crunch and the loss of her mastermind, Nancy’s spunk and heroism prevailed. She was an instant hit with the younger set.Over the years her popularity has exploded. Beyond the 56 original stories there have been spin-off series, board games, a cookbook, collaborations with The Hardy Boys, a television show, and even movies and computer games.
She has touched lives around the world. From bright-eyed little girls in suburbia, to European refugees fleeing from the Nazis, to young Muslim women hunched over bootleg copies of her stories, she has taught girls by example that they too can be courageous and intelligent and stand up for right.
She’s expanded our vision of what we can be and what we can do. Her adventures presented new possibilities. She’s taken on a life of her own, beyond ink on a page, beyond mere words.
Thank you Nancy. We want to seek truth as diligently as you do. We want to see justice prevail, and we want to step out when we can do something about a problem, rather than leaving it up to someone else. Just as she overcame difficult initial circumstances to become a reigning queen in children’s and YA literature, we too can forge ahead and pursue our dreams even through challenged by tightening belts on every side. Difficult does not mean impossible.
So what about you? Do you have a dream you are fighting for?
Do you have a favorite Nancy Drew mystery?
Are your more like Nancy, Bess or George?