Nancy Drew, the fictional American girl detective, solved her first mystery in 1930 in The Secret of the Old Clock and to date she has solved over 350 mysteries, with no signs of stopping. Generations of girls have been inspired by this amateur sleuth's adventurous spirit and confident grace, and Nancy herself has graduated from well-known fictitious character in to full-blown pop culture icon.
Long before the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the heroine of this popular mystery series challenged stereotypes of how women and girls should act and who they were allowed to be. Nancy did it all. She possessed car repair skills as well as culinary talents. She rode horses, danced, sewed and played sports. She was smart, brave, confident and daring, as well as polite, thoughtful and kind. Her steady boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, was handsome and attentive, but not overbearing. Her best girlfriends, Bess and George, were spunky and bright and always willing to help out. Interestingly enough for her time, Nancy was also the child of a single parent as her father, Carson Drew, was a widower who never remarried. Instead, the primary female figure in Nancy's life was the family housekeeper, Hannah Gruen.
Part of the appeal of the Nancy Drew series to young girls is not only Nancy's admirable character, but her enviable freedom. Carson Drew's success as a criminal attorney allowed Nancy freedom from the trials of the Depression and his frequent absences on business allowed her independence. Not many young readers would have had the same options as were available to their fearless heroine.
The series was first published in 1930 by Grosset and Dunlap and was the creation of Edward Stratemeyer, owner of the Stratemeyer Syndicate which had already created such popular series as the Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, and the Hardy Boys. Stratemeyer created Nancy and hired a young journalist to write the stories based on plot outlines that he provided. The Secret of the Old Clock, by Carolyn Keene, was released in 1930 - the same year that Edward Stratemeyer died. His daughter Harriet Adams carried on the work of supervising the series and later wrote many of the books herself. In 1979, the Stratemeyer Syndicate contracted with Simon and Schuster to publish new books in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, in a digest format aimed at readers ages 8 - 11.
In 1982, Harriet Adams also died, and in 1984, Simon and Schuster purchased the Syndicate, thereby becoming both owner and publisher of Nancy Drew. Pocket Books updated the property to mirror the lives and interests of Nancy's most recent generation of readers. The core of the Nancy Drew publishing programme, the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, continues to be published six times a year by Pocket Books' Minstrel Book imprint. In recent years, Pocket Books has created new versions of the Nancy Drew mystery, taking older readers to college with Nancy, George and Bess, and introducing younger readers to an eight-year old Nancy as she solves her first mysteries and hones her sleuthing skills.
No matter in which format she appears, however, Nancy's popularity remains high and as a testament to her character's sterling qualities and exciting adventures, Nancy Drew mysteries have been translated into French, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Dutch, Spanish, German, Brazilian, Portuguese, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Malaysian. Long may she live!