Pin It
Favorite

Book Review 

by Clea Simon & r & & r & Girl Slueth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & C & lt;/span & ute, brave, and perpetually 16 to 18 years old, Nancy Drew epitomizes an American ideal. Blonde but never bland, the "girl sleuth" led many of us into danger and out again without relying on masculine strength. It's no wonder that Nancy Drew, ever stylish, has lasted 75 years as a childhood favorite. In her literary biography, Melanie Rehak chronicles a character who influenced at least two generations of women in a highly readable book designed to give the perky teen her due.


Rehak's account makes compelling reading -- not least because, like some Dickens waif, Nancy had a tumultuous upbringing. Although readers knew her as the creation of "Caroline Keene," that WASPy-sounding author was as fictional as the young detective. In reality, Nancy came to life as a marketing ploy. Conceived by a German immigrant named Edward Stratemeyer, Nancy was pitched as a follow-up to such heroines as Dorothy Dale, "girl of today," one of the 140 girls' series that were started between 1900 and 1920. As modernized homes freed families from chores, children were reading -- and buying -- more books. Stratemeyer catered to this emerging market.


In 1929, he proposed a new series, possibly featuring a heroine named Stella Strong, to his publisher, Grosset & amp; Dunlap. When G & amp;D signed on, he forwarded his sketchy plot outlines to the 24-year-old Mildred Augustine (Wirt), a recent University of Iowa grad who had sent him some stories. For as little as $85 a book, she ended up writing most of the 30 Nancy Drew mysteries to come before 1953, when she left the Stratemeyer Syndicate for good.


The reason for that split -- and the dramatic tension behind Girl Sleuth -- lay in the conflicts between Wirt and Stratemeyer's daughter Harriet. When Stratemeyer died in 1930, his widow and his two daughters, who had been raised to be ladies (that is, not to work), sought to sell the enterprise. But the Depression limited offers, and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams took up the reins. At first reluctant, she grew increasingly involved as Nancy's popularity blossomed. By the '60s, Adams was claiming to have written all the books. As ably recounted by Rehak, the struggle between Wirt and Adams played out as the tomboyish Nancy was edited into demure submission and back again.


This tension mirrored the ebb and flow of 20th-century feminism, and Rehak traces her heroine's independent spirit to the suffragists' battle for the vote. But by also recounting the backlash against flappers and Depression conservatism, she paints a scenario that remains familiar today.

  • Pin It

Latest in News

  • Between Love and the Law
  • Between Love and the Law

    He was a criminal. She was a crime fighter. Their relationship would cost them both dearly
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • 'All Lives Matter'
  • 'All Lives Matter'

    A deeper look at Pasco as it grapples with the police shooting of a vulnerable man
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • Promise Keepers?
  • Promise Keepers?

    The city of Spokane tries to keep its promise not to raise taxes; plus, the fight against public nudity
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Dr. Seuss’s 111th Birthday

Dr. Seuss’s 111th Birthday @ North Spokane Library

Sun., March 1, 1-4 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by n/a

  • Iron Upgrade
  • Iron Upgrade

    The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.
    • May 12, 2010
  • Seeing Gay
  • Seeing Gay

    A festival showing GLBT from all angles
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • Get Out the Vote
  • Get Out the Vote

    With all the uncertainty in the world these days, hot wings and cold beer are two things we can get behind
    • Nov 9, 2009
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • 'I Do Not Trust Muzlims'

    Comments by the wife of Spokane County Prosecutor Larry Haskell have raised questions about his office's impartiality
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • Fagan's World

    City councilman Mike Fagan has unconventional views on vaccinations. So, what else does he think?
    • Feb 18, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation