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Who is Nancy Drew?

By Wanda Albano
Updated: May 17, 2024

Nancy Drew is the fictional star of the eponymous Nancy Drew book series. She is characterized to be a blue eyed, titian-haired teenage sleuth with a penchant for detective work, and resides in the upper-middle class town of Riverside Heights.

The Nancy Drew books have been in print since the 1930s, making it one of the longest book series to be published. The character itself has changed through the decades, although the basic premise of a young girl solving mysteries and crime remains the same.

In the first few books that appeared in the 1930s, Nancy Drew was sixteen years old and quite obviously affluent. She was also somewhat imperious and reckless, and even carried and used a gun. This was later revised to fit the now standard mold of Nancy Drew as a more typical, albeit still rather privileged, eighteen year old American girl.

Nancy Drew has two best friends, slightly boy-crazy Bess Marvin and tomboyish George Fayne, and a boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. She lives with her father, an attorney named Carson Drew, and a housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, who is a kind of mother figure in her life.

The Nancy Drew books are all credited to one author, Carolyn Keene. Carolyn Keene herself, however, is fictional. The books were first conceived, although not written, by Edward Stratemeyer in 1930. Stratemeyer wrote an outline, but the actual writing of the first novel was done by Mildred Benson. Stratemeyer's daughter, Harriet Adams, edited the work. It was later revealed that Mildred Benson wrote the first 22 books of the original series.

From the 1930s to the 1950s, ghostwriters were hired to craft the Nancy Drew stories under the editorial supervision of Harriet Adams. From the 1950s to the 1970s, Adams began writing the books herself. She also rewrote the earlier novels to purge it of some racist sentiments and to streamline the series. From the 1970s to its last title in 2003, ghostwriters were again welcomed on board.

Currently, Nancy Drew now only comes out in print via a new graphic novel series published by Papercutz. Video games, films, and TV shows based on the books have been released, with limited success.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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