She was the creation of 24 year-old Mildred A. Wirt. Wirt wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books, the very first of which was The secret of the old clock, published on 28 April, 1930.
Wirt is described in Girl sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her as “a convention-flouting Midwestern journalist”.Well, quite.
As a girl I enjoyed Nancy’s confident, curious sleuthing abilities both in book form (Password to Larkspur Lane being a favourite, if I recall) as well as the 1970s TV series which also introduced me to the charms of The Hardy Boys.
It was unusual to find a female teenage protagonist who was so self-assured, knowledgeable, canny, and well-financed as Nancy Drew in the 1980s let alone in the 1930s. Apparently Wirt was not pleased with the “namby-pamby” style of books for girls at that time and was looking to create a somewhat more “feisty” character. This is almost certainly why Nancy and the series has continued to be popular.
Her influence on popular culture cannot be underestimated. The name “Nancy Drew” is nearly synonymous with “sleuth”, and I can’t help but wonder – without Nancy, would there have been any Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Veronica Mars, or Scooby Doo’s Velma?
The books have been ghostwritten by numerous authors over the years and are published collectively under the name Carolyn Keene.
Read more about Nancy Drew’s interesting literary history –