18.07.10 Nancy Drew

July 10, 2018

July 10, 1905

Mildred Wirt Benson born.

A dedicated journalist for 60 years who introduced the world to Nancy Drew.

(A.K.A. Carolyn Keene)

“I always wanted to be a writer from the time I could walk.”

  • Born in rural Iowa; A few opportunities for women outside the home.
  • Her parents encouraged her writing pursuits; sheA won her 1st writing award at age 14.
  • First student (man or woman) to earn master’s in journalism at Univ. of Iowa.
  • Her first trip to NYC changed everything…

Creating Nancy Drew

  • Benson met kids book publisher Edward Stratemeyer who had ideas, but needed ghost writers.
  • Benson wrote 23 of 30 original Nancy Drew stories, establishing Nancy’s determination & bravery.
  • She wrote the 2nd & 3rd stories in the series at age 24.
  • Paid $125 per book, signed away rights to royalties on books, movies & board games.

Enduring Popularity

“The heroines of girls’ books back then were all namby-pamby. I wanted to do something different.”

  • Nancy Drew fans say the books allowed girls & young women to imagine anything was possible at a time when females struggled for equality.
  • Series still in print, selling over 200M books in 17 languages.

Mystery Solved!

  • All of the Nancy Drew books written under the ghost name “Carolyn Keene” – chosen by the publisher.
  • Benson legally prevented from publicly revealing her identity as the series author.
  • In 1980 Benson testified in a court case involving the publisher and her name became known.

Not only was she a writer & journalist for 58 years (at the AP, Toledo Times & Toledo Blade), Benson became a pilot, amateur archaeologist & adventurer much like Nancy Drew. She worked at the newspaper until the day she died – at age 96.

by Jenna Lee,