Dear Kids and All Readers,
She drives a roadster (first maroon, then blue), is a force for good, unafraid to speak up, and delivers the baddies to Chief Pete McGinnis with time left over to get to Ned Nickerson’s college football game without a hair out of place. And she’s been doing all that for 93 years! Who can this powerful woman be?
None other than my forever-eighteen-year-old mystery-book hero and fictional BFF, Nancy Drew!
I recently joined the Nancy Drew Fan Club. We members are called Nancy Drew Sleuths. No surprise that there is such a club, right? But joining begged the question, “Why do many of us still worship Nancy Drew after all these years?” I mean, her books have never been out of print and have sold over 80 million copies!
First a little history to put things in perspective. Since her creation in 1929 by Edward Stratemeyer, head of the children’s fiction literature syndicate, Nancy Drew made her appearance in her first three cases in 1930 (The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery). Would you believe that Mr. Stratemeyer considered naming Nancy Stella Strong or Diana Daring? Fortunately, her unostentatious but still forceful honorific, Nancy Drew, won out.
Nancy’s first twenty-three cases were written by a newspaperwoman named Mildred Augustine Wirt (later Benson) under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She used Mr. Stratemeyer’s chapter-by-chapter, detailed outlines to bring to the pages “an up-to-date girl, at her best, bright, clever, resourceful, and full of energy.” In the 1950s, Stratemeyer’s daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, mostly took over for Mildred Wirt Benson. It wasn’t until 1980 that Benson was revealed to be the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew mysteries.
Nancy Drew has inspired generations of readers including Sonia Sotomayor, R.B.G., Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, and yours truly. Maybe you as well. Legions of us.
So what accounts for Nancy Drew’s staying power and appeal? According to Alexis Soloski in her October 4, 2019, article for the New York Times, “Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Her Enduring Relevance,” [the girl sleuth’s] “appeal has always been that people relate to her in various ways: She is an archetype, just generic enough for readers to imagine themselves in her sensible heels,” imbued with her confidence, respect, and authority. We garner vicarious sparkle and elan when we become her in her adventures.
According to Melanie Rehak, author of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, “[Nancy] will live on as long as we continue to crave heroic, fearless women, or women who face their fear and move past it.”
If like me, you’re a huge Nancy Drew fan, here’s where you can shop for Nancy Swag! Bags, jewelry, clothing, party favors, and more–all for love of Nancy Drew.
So, get a clue, Readers. Who is your fictional hero and why? What was and remains their appeal for you? Please let me know HERE!