A plucky “titian-haired” sleuth solved her first mystery in 1930. Eighty million books later, Nancy Drew has survived the Depression, World War II, and the sixties (when she was taken up with a vengeance by women’s libbers) to enter the pantheon of American girlhood. As beloved by girls today as she was by their grandmothers, Nancy Drew has both inspired and reflected the changes in her readers’ lives. Here, in a narrative with all the vivid energy and page-turning pace of Nancy’s adventures, Melanie Rehak solves an enduring literary mystery: Who created Nancy Drew? And how did she go from pulp heroine to icon?
The brainchild of children’s book mogul Edward Stratemeyer, Nancy was brought to life by two women: Mildred Wirt Benson, a pioneering journalist from Iowa, and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, a well-bred wife and mother who took over as CEO after her father died. In this century-spanning story, Rehak traces their roles—and Nancy’s—in forging the modern American woman.
Yes, I was one of the slightly vintage women who let out a shriek when we saw it at Costco: The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, a complete boxed set, fifty-six familiar yellow spines, shrink-wrapped. I can't remember now if it was $100 or $200 or $500, but I immediately paid it, with shaking hands. Surely my six-year-old niece or my preschool-aged daughters would eventually enjoy—indeed, would require—this treasure trove
Melanie Rehak's amiable and thorough new book begins and ends with appeals to the reader. Her first sentence is direct: "Grab your magnifying glass, because this is a mystery story." Her last line is more of an entreaty. "There are fighting days still ahead of us," she writes, "and we're going to need her." The "her" is Nancy Drew, the fictional teenage detective whose authorship and enduring popularity are the subjects of "Girl Sleuth." The "us" in the sentence is women.
Since 1930 Nancy Drew has installed herself in the wayward hearts of young girls, heedless of the Depression, four wars (not counting the present one), civil rights, feminism, Gerald Ford and drugs, sex and rock and roll.
'Is it possible that there breathes somewhere a female between the ages of nine and 49 who doesn't know Nancy Drew?" asked one of the girl detective's adult fans.Probably not. The titian-haired sleuth has left her mark on American womanhood for generations now. Bette Davis, Barbara Walters, Mary Tyler Moore, Joan Mondale, Fran Lebowitz, Beverly Sills, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are just a few of her avowed fans.
Girl Sleuth’s 384 pages are filled with more than 500 quotes, and biographical and historical information on Edward Stratemeyer, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, Mildred Wirt Benson, the women’s suffrage movement, the publishing industry, and much more. From beginning to end, how long did it take you to write this book? And where did you begin?
She came along in 1930 when girls needed a new kind of heroine, a perfectly groomed teenage sleuth at the wheel of a blue roadster -- unflappable and brave in the face of a modern world full of dangers and mysteries.
A look at Nancy Drew and the whole idea of female investigators with Cullman Center Fellow Melanie Rehak, author of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, and Laura Lippman, prize-winning author of the Tess Monaghan mystery series and To The Power of Three. David Ferriero, the Andrew W. Mellon Director and Chief Executive of the Research Libraries, NYPL, will moderate. Co-presented with The Dorothy & Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars & Writers.
Of course, Nancy Drew first snooped her way to the scene of the crime in print, "The Secret of the Old Clock" launched the mystery series in 1930. And if you read the books, you'll remember Nancy's loving widowed father, her girl chums George and Bess, and the long-suffering boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. The books are still written today, albeit with some changes - Nancy drives a hybrid and uses email.
Nancy Drew turned 75 this year and Melanie Rehak has written a biography of sorts of the fictional detective and how she came to be called Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her.
It was April of 1930 and America was about to fall in love. Nancy Drew inspired passionate devotion in the hearts of American’s little girls. The amazing thing is 75 years later she is still going strong.