Whoa! So my mind was a teensy bit blown as I soaked up all the history regarding Nancy Drew’s creation.
Nancy Drew was one of the last creations by Edward Stratemeyer, the head of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. He mass-produced hundreds of ghost-written children’s books based on his story outlines and all written under pseudonyms. Phew! If it sounds like a lot. Well, that’s because it is.
Stratemeyer was a popular children’s author in his own right. But he quickly realized that he couldn’t possibly pen all the stories he wanted. So he hired ghostwriters to churn them out. He outlined and edited them, then published them under various pen names. Thus, the syndicate was born and became a lucrative business. At the time of his death, Stratemeyer had outlined the first few Nancy Drew stories and had hired Mildred Augustine to write them. He never saw what a success this book series would be.
Mildred Augustine wrote the early Nancy Drew stories. But because of her contract, she was not allowed to disclose this. When Stratemeyer died, his daughters Harriet and Edna took over the business. So at the height of the Depression, Nancy Drew was being molded and shaped by women. And prospering.
Mildred and Harriet were modern day working women. And their ideas of Nancy clashed. When Mildred stopped working for the syndicate, Harriet herself took over the Nancy Drew stories. So there are 2 versions of Nancy. Mildred’s Nancy is adventerous, outspoken and a bit brash. Harriet’s Nancy is prim, posed, and well-mannered. Years later when the stories were revised, Harriet’s Nancy wins out. Funny enough, it’s Harriet’s stories that I rather enjoyed.
Speaking of the revisions. The reason the stories were revised: racism. Something I discussed while reviewing the books was how inherently racist some of the stories were. I was both excited and nervous when Nancy traveled abroad. Apparently I’m not the only one that felt that way! As early as 1948, concerned parents were writing to the publishers. Because Nancy Drew books are great and all, but they have no clue how to deal with POC. So the publisher and Harriet agreed to revise the previously published stories. Except Harriet had, ahem, “old world” values. (My polite way of saying she was low-key racist). So her solution was to wipe out any POC from the books. But the books I read were still problematic so… um, yeah. Way to go with the revisions ya’ll!
Anyway, this was a nice crash course reading on Nancy Drew. I enjoyed the stories Harriet wrote so finding out what kind of person she was made me really question myself haha. There was also a lot of drama behind the scenes. Harriet and Mildred butting heads. Harriet and her sister, Edna, also going at it. Each woman, so different from one another, managed to somehow create a literary heroine for the ages.