Our girl protagonist of April is Nancy Drew! She is a sleuth in an American mystery series created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer as the female counterpart to his Hardy Boys series. Nancy Drew first appeared in 1930. The books are ghostwritten by a number of authors and published under the collective pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Nancy Drew is a 16-year-old high school graduate, and in later versions, is rewritten and aged to be an 18-year-old high school graduate and detective. In the series, she lives in the fictional town of River Heights with her father, attorney Carson Drew, and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. As a teenager, she spends her time solving mysteries, some of which she stumbles upon and some of which begin as cases of her father’s.
Nancy is often described as a super girl. She is well-off, attractive, and amazingly talented. At sixteen she ‘had studied psychology in school, and was familiar with the power of suggestion and association.’ She was a fine painter, spoke French, and had frequently run motor boats. She was a skilled driver who at sixteen ‘flashed into the garage with a skill born of long practice.’ The prodigy was a sure shot, an excellent swimmer, skillful oarsman, expert seamstress, gourmet cook, and a fine bridge player. Nancy brilliantly played tennis and golf, and rode like a cowboy. Nancy danced like Ginger Rogers and could administer first aid like the Mayo brothers.
Before we continue with more of Nancy’s stories, please be aware that from now on the post contains spoilers from the book.
As a child (age ten in the original versions and age three in the later version), Nancy loses her mother. Her loss is reflected in her early independence—running a household since the age of ten with a clear-cut servant in early series and deferring to the servant as a surrogate parent in later ones. Nancy is often assisted in solving mysteries by her two closest friends: cousins Bess Marvin and George Fayne. Bess is delicate and feminine, while George is a tomboy. Nancy is also occasionally joined by her boyfriend Ned Nickerson, a student at Emerson College.
The character of Nancy Drew has gone through many permutations over the years. The Nancy Drew Mystery series was revised beginning in 1959; with commentators agreeing that Nancy’s character changed significantly from the original Nancy of the books written in the 1930s and 1940s. Observers also often see a difference between the Nancy Drew of the original series, the Nancy of The Nancy Drew Files, and the Nancy of Girl Detective series. Nevertheless, some find no significant difference among the permutations of Nancy Drew, finding Nancy to be simply a good role model for girls. Despite revisions, “What hasn’t changed, however, are [Nancy’s] basic values, her goals, her humility, and her magical gift for having at least nine lives. For more than six decades, her essence has remained intact.” Nancy is a “teen detective queen” who “offers girl readers something more than action-packed adventure: she gives them something original. Convention has it that girls are passive, respectful, and emotional, but with the energy of a girl shot out of a cannon, Nancy bends conventions and acts out every girl’s fantasies of power.”
The Nancy Drew character proves continuously popular worldwide: at least 80 million copies of the books have been sold, and the books have been translated into over 45 languages. Nancy Drew is featured in five films, three television shows, and a number of popular computer games; she also appears in a variety of merchandise sold around the world. A cultural icon, Nancy Drew is cited as a formative influence by a number of women, from Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush.
Nancy Drew has, and continue to, inspire us on girl power, and how a girl can do everything a boy can, and even be better at it!
Need other kinds of inspiration? Just check Adorageek’s other posts!
Girl protagonist of January: Jo March
Girl protagonist of February: Pippi Longstocking