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Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her (2005)

by Melanie Rehak

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8004319,602 (3.67)97
In 1930 a plucky girl detective stepped out of her shiny blue roadster, dressed in a smart tweed suit. Eighty million books later, Nancy Drew has survived the Depression, World War II, and the sixties, and emerged as beloved by girls today as by their grandmothers. Rehak tells the behind-the-scenes history of Nancy and her groundbreaking creators. Both Nancy and her "author," Carolyn Keene, were invented by Edward Stratemeyer, who also created the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys. But Nancy Drew was brought to life by two remarkable women: original author Mildred Wirt Benson, a convention-flouting Midwestern journalist, and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, a wife and mother who ran her father's company after he died. Together, Benson and Adams created a character that has inspired generations of girls to be as strong-willed and as bold as they were.--From publisher description.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
I read this in college and it opened my eyes, on finding a copy on our first venture out this past weekend in a second hand shop I figured it was time to give it another go since I've read a few of the original Nancy Drews now.

'Girl Sleuth' traces the history of the 'Nancy Drew' series from its genesis in a memo from the Stratemeyer Syndicate to the cultural momentum Nancy Drew had achieved by the end of the 20th century. The focus is on the original author of the series, Mildred Wirt Benson, and editor Harriet Adams Stratemeyer who shepherded the series and, infamously, revised the original books and claimed sole authorship for decades.

The story is a fascinating one. It is very hard to feel sympathy for Adams, but Rehak does a fine job on Adams' background and restrictions and the hardships she faced as a woman in a man's industry. Benson, on the other hand, was an amazing woman who would be noteworthy even without her having ghost-written Nancy. A journalist, pilot and - though she refused the title - feminist who paved the way for many after her.

I would have liked there to have been more discussion of the racism and classism inherent in the books written in the '30s and '40s. How much was present in the Stratemeyer outlines that Benson couldn't deviate from, written by Harriet and her sister for the most part, and how much did Benson add? Rehak goes straight into the era when the books needed to be revised. Those images, stereotypes and ideas were a part of the times, but they were not mandatory. Did Benson ever make a statement of regret? Did Adams?

Still a good read for those of us who can't get enough Nancy Drew. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Jun 4, 2020 |
This is a thorough look behind the scenes at the Nancy Drew book series -- a biography of the early-1900s children’s book mogul/syndicate-owner Edward Stratemeyer and the two women involved in ghost-writing the books as Carolyn Keene. It’s also a light history of women’s suffrage, women’s rights and the Great Depression, and both women amazed me with their education and confidence of a hundred years ago. Some attention is given to how the series has been updated over the years.

Rehak’s narration begins as straightforward and journalistic but becomes gripping as drama develops in the economy, in the Stratemeyer family, and between the Carolyn Keenes. ( )
  DetailMuse | Feb 11, 2020 |
Enjoyable trip down memory lane. This well-researched book gives us not only the history of everyone's favorite girl detective, but also how Nancy Drew was sometimes a reflection and sometimes a deflection of and from the times in which she "lived." ( )
  AliceAnna | Sep 7, 2019 |
An amazing tale of two women who created & "raised" Nancy Drew and then battled each other for the credit. Of course they should have joined forces in order to get more money out of the men who owned the publishing house. Not only an excellent history of our fave girl sleuth, but also of how girlhood was seen throughout the 20th century.

And yes, I'm that much of a sap that I teared up at the end.
  roniweb | May 30, 2019 |
When I discovered this book in a thrift shop I got that electric thrill of finding a treasure! If you're a Nancy Drew fan you will know what I mean. I'd read most of the mystery series as a girl, but had never even known about this book. Not only does the book describe how and why the "girl detective" was created, but goes into the history and growth of children's literature. Well-researched and fascinating, readers will enjoy seeing Nancy evolve from the 1930's to the 21st century. Photos, footnotes, an index and bibliography - a real find for fans. My only complaint - where is the list of book titles with dates in order of publication? ( )
  PhyllisReads | Apr 27, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Melanie Rehakprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jones, LarryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In September of 1929 children's book mogul Edward Stratemeyer sent one of his inimitable typed memos to Grosset & Dunlap, his longtime publisher, describing a new line of books he hoped they would launch the following spring.
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In 1930 a plucky girl detective stepped out of her shiny blue roadster, dressed in a smart tweed suit. Eighty million books later, Nancy Drew has survived the Depression, World War II, and the sixties, and emerged as beloved by girls today as by their grandmothers. Rehak tells the behind-the-scenes history of Nancy and her groundbreaking creators. Both Nancy and her "author," Carolyn Keene, were invented by Edward Stratemeyer, who also created the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys. But Nancy Drew was brought to life by two remarkable women: original author Mildred Wirt Benson, a convention-flouting Midwestern journalist, and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, a wife and mother who ran her father's company after he died. Together, Benson and Adams created a character that has inspired generations of girls to be as strong-willed and as bold as they were.--From publisher description.

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