Over the decades the character has evolved in response to changes in American culture and tastes. The books were extensively revised, beginning in 1959, largely to eliminate racist stereotypes, with arguable success. Many scholars agree that in the revision process, the heroine's original, outspoken character was toned down and made more docile, conventional, and demure. In the 1980s a new series was created, the Nancy Drew Files, which featured an older and more professional Nancy as well as romantic plots. In 2004 the original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, begun in 1930, was ended and a new series, Girl Detective, was launched, with an updated version of the character who drives a hybrid electric vehicle and uses a cell phone. Illustrations of the character have also evolved over time, from portrayals of a fearless, active young woman to a fearful or passive one.
Through all these changes, the character has proved 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 has featured in five films, two television shows, and a number of popular computer games; she also appears in a variety of merchandise sold over the world.
A cultural icon, Nancy Drew has been cited as a formative influence by a number of prominent women, from Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Sonia Sotomayor to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former First Lady Laura Bush. Feminist literary critics have analyzed the character's enduring appeal, arguing variously that Nancy Drew is a mythic hero, an expression of wish fulfillment, or an embodiment of contradictory ideas about femininity.
Nancy Drew. (After all, have Bette Davis, Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton, Mary Tyler Moore, Joan Mondale, Fran Lebowitz, Beverly Sills, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever mentioned Barbie as a favorite role model?)
The titian-haired sleuth from River Heights, first appeared to the American public on April 28, 1930, when "The Secret of the Old Clock" was published. Since then "Nancy Drew" books have gone on to sell more than 65 million copies in the US and 200 million worldwide in 25 different languages. (She's "Kitty Drew" in Sweden and "Alice Roy" in France.)
There is also a new series of "Nancy Drew" graphic novels and, of course, there was the 2007 movie starring Emma Roberts.
Most of us who grew up loving the books now know that there was no Carolyn Keene (the author name that appears on every book's spine) and that Nancy has had various ghost writers over the decades. (For the full story of her creation, try "Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her" by Melanie Rehak.)
To mark the occasion of Nancy's birthday, original publisher Grosset & Dunlap is releasing an 80th-anniversary edition of the first book, "The Secret of the Old Clock." The book will mark a return to the 1959 version of the story (with just a bit of updating to remove some unfortunate racial stereotyping).
Tags: nancy drew, emma roberts