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About Mildred Wirt Benson
 
From the NY Times:

May 29, 2002
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Filed at 4:20 p.m. ET

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) -- Mildred Wirt Benson, the author who created Nancy Drew, girl sleuth, and inspired generations of young women with the teen-age heroine's spunk, independence and resourcefulness, has died at 96.

Benson fell ill Tuesday at The Blade newspaper, where she wrote a weekly column about daily life and the elderly. She died later at a hospital.

Using the pen name Carolyn Keene, Benson wrote 23 of the 30 original Nancy Drew mysteries about the stylishly dressed, golden-haired rich girl who tooled around in her own roadster and solved crimes.

Dozens of ghost writers followed Benson, and the Nancy Drew series is still in print. It has sold over 200 million books in 17 languages.

Benson was paid $125 per book and never collected royalties from the books, movies and board games. She was bound by an agreement with the publisher not to reveal her identity as the series author, but it became known in 1980 when she testified in a court case involving Nancy Drew's publisher.

``I always knew the series would be successful,'' Benson said in a December interview with The Associated Press. ``I just never expected it to be the blockbuster that it has been. I'm glad that I had that much influence on people.''

Benson was a journalist for 58 years and wrote more than 130 books, including the Penny Parker mystery series, and countless short stories. But she is best known for creating Drew, a 16-year-old with golden blond hair who was as smart as she was beautiful.

The always-perfect teen detective wore stylish cardigan sweater sets, white gloves and heels while climbing through attics and haunted mansions in search of clues. She caught jewel thieves, kidnappers and other criminals with the help of her River Heights pals, tomboy George and the pretty, plump Bess. Nancy's father, handsome attorney Carson Drew, praised everything she did.

In the first Nancy Drew book, in 1930, she uncovered the hidden will in ``The Secret of the Old Clock.'' Twelve books later she helped a retired actress recover her stolen Persian cats in ``The Clue of the Tapping Heels.''

Fans say the books allowed girls and young women to dream of exciting careers at a time when females had few role models in print. Celebrities like actress Demi Moore and journalist Barbara Walters have said they were inspired by the daring detective.

``I grew up on Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins,'' Walters said in 1998. ``The Bobbsey Twins were goody-goody, and Nancy Drew was fearless. I wanted to be somewhere between both.''

``Every woman wanted to be her,'' said Suzanne Meglan, who was shopping at a suburban Columbus bookstore Wednesday. She read the books and bought them for her daughter. Now her grandchildren are reading them.

Harriet Adams, daughter of original publisher Edward Stratemeyer, took over the Nancy Drew series and directed writers in the 1950s to make the stories shorter and faster-paced.

Adams died in 1982 and Nancy Drew was sold to Simon & Schuster, which uses a number of ``Carolyn Keenes.'' Nancy evolved into a halter-top wearing, roller-blading high schooler who hung out at the mall. She traded her roadster for a convertible.

Benson never cared for the ``modern'' Nancy and refused to sign her name on any of the new books. In a way, she was like the character she made famous -- independent and adventurous.

She loved swimming and diving, and remembered jumping from bridges into the Iowa River during her college days. She learned to fly at 59 and traveled around the world, flying to archaeological digs in Central America.

Benson began writing in Ladora, Iowa, where she was born July 10, 1905. She wrote children's stories when she was in grade school and won her first writing award at 14.

``I had no other thought except that I wanted to write,'' she said.

Benson was the first person to receive a master's degree in journalism at the University of Iowa in 1927, according to the school.

She was introduced to journalism through her first husband, Asa Wirt, who worked with The AP. In 1944, Benson began working at the former Toledo Times and later at The Blade.

Despite failing eyesight and diminished hearing, she continued to write. The day after she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1997, she was back at her desk working on her next column.

``She was gutsy and daring, a living embodiment of her Nancy Drew heroine,'' said John Robinson Block, publisher and editor in chief of The Blade.

Benson recalled her lifelong love of books in her final column, published in The Blade on Wednesday. ``I consider it an honor to have been born near the turn of the 20th century, at about the time when public libraries were first coming into popular use,'' she wrote.

The Nancy Drew books now compete with ``The Royal Diaries,'' a historical fiction series by Scholastic Books, and the American Girl series.

Beth Puffer, manager of the Bank Street Bookstore in New York, said the original Nancy Drew books are a bit outdated for today's young readers.

``In other ways, they're universal -- a good mystery, good character, a good female protagonist,'' she said. ``They sell kind of slowly but steadily. My sense is it's more parents buying them out of nostalgia.''

Wirt died in 1947. Benson's second husband, George Benson, editor of The Toledo Times, died in 1959. She is survived by her daughter, Peggy Wirt. The funeral will be private.

For general information about NYTimes.com, write to help@nytimes.com.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company


  • Thank you, Mildred, for all the wonderful... by Lucky Star - May 30, 02 (#1 of 91)
  • And the wonderful stories, and the richly written... by NurseR - May 30, 02 (#2 of 91)
  • Thank you, and goodbye. by Green Hornet - May 30, 02 (#3 of 91)
  • With best regards to an intrepid woman with a... by TappingHeels - May 30, 02 (#4 of 91)
  • Thank you Midred for all what you have done for... by ScarlettSlipper - May 31, 02 (#5 of 91)
  • Thank you Mildred for coming into our lives with... by dell - Jun 16, 02 (#6 of 91)
  • It may be too late, but thanks Mildred for... by bookworm007 - Jul 29, 02 (#7 of 91)
  • It's never too late! by Green Hornet - Jul 30, 02 (#8 of 91)
  • thanks green hornet!wow!.. by bookworm007 - Jul 31, 02 (#9 of 91)
  • I dont mean to rain on the parade, or anything,... by Hirushiro - Aug 26, 02 (#10 of 91)
  • No... by NurseR - Aug 26, 02 (#11 of 91)
  • Wasn't Harriet Adams quite enamoured of the Nancy... by TappingHeels - Aug 26, 02 (#12 of 91)
  • Possibly.But did her plot backfire or what?.. by bookworm007 - Aug 26, 02 (#13 of 91)
  • Ms... by NurseR - Aug 27, 02 (#14 of 91)
  • really?So what happned to Ms.Adams?IS she still... by bookworm007 - Aug 27, 02 (#15 of 91)
  • I think she's dead now. by NurseR - Aug 27, 02 (#16 of 91)
  • Really...so now ghostwriters are taking... by bookworm007 - Aug 28, 02 (#17 of 91)
  • In my opinion, Mildred every time... by TappingHeels - Aug 28, 02 (#18 of 91)
  • My thoughts exactly, Tapping!.. by NurseR - Aug 29, 02 (#19 of 91)
  • So basically,what your saying is---Mildred didn't... by bookworm007 - Aug 29, 02 (#20 of 91)
  • So do I!.. by Calali - Sep 15, 02 (#21 of 91)
  • Bookworm-I found a article in the newspaper last... by MnM - Oct 3, 02 (#22 of 91)
  • I was soo sad when she died! by Calali - Oct 4, 02 (#23 of 91)
  • She has created something that no one has ever... by Junebaby - Oct 12, 02 (#24 of 91)
  • Her legacy lives on! by Green Hornet - Oct 13, 02 (#25 of 91)
  • MnM-Cardiac Arrest?.. by bookworm007 - Dec 31, 02 (#26 of 91)
  • No, she had no authority over the books after she... by NurseR - Jan 1, 03 (#27 of 91)
  • NurseR-you said that all the ghostwriters signed a... by bookworm007 - Jan 2, 03 (#28 of 91)
  • Yes... by NurseR - Jan 3, 03 (#29 of 91)
  • thanks NurseR!.. by bookworm007 - Jan 3, 03 (#30 of 91)
  • Harriet fired her, not sure why though. by NurseR - Jan 4, 03 (#31 of 91)
  • Mildred left because during the depression,... by LarkspurLane - Jan 4, 03 (#32 of 91)
  • I thought that was the explanation for why Walter... by NurseR - Jan 5, 03 (#33 of 91)
  • Ohh.. by LarkspurLane - Jan 5, 03 (#34 of 91)
  • That's what I thought was the reason for the final... by NurseR - Jan 6, 03 (#35 of 91)
  • I found out about another series Millie wrote... by NurseR - Jan 25, 03 (#36 of 91)
  • Just how many girl [detective] series did Millie... by Calali - Jan 26, 03 (#37 of 91)
  • There's a list of books at the unofficial Nancy... by LarkspurLane - Jan 26, 03 (#38 of 91)
  • Thank You, Larkspur. by Calali - Jan 26, 03 (#39 of 91)
  • It sure would be fascinating to study Mildred's... by BelgianStar - Mar 18, 03 (#40 of 91)
  • oh ((( BelgianStar ))) that's a wonderful idea :o)... by Fair_Maiden - Mar 18, 03 (#41 of 91)
  • That is a great question.someday i would like to... by shenise dinger - Aug 25, 03 (#42 of 91)
  • Mrs... by Jenise - Aug 26, 03 (#43 of 91)
  • I completely agree with Jenise... by huamei - Feb 19, 05 (#44 of 91)
  • I wish Mildred could have continued writing...the... by Leia*Gal16 - Mar 11, 05 (#45 of 91)
  • Thank you, Mildred, for bring to this world for... by Tay-Tay8 - Mar 24, 05 (#46 of 91)
  • I didn't know unil now that Caorlyn Keene was... by 59kittykat - Mar 26, 05 (#47 of 91)
  • Yeah... by huamei - Apr 1, 05 (#48 of 91)
  • I liked her pen name better. by 59kittykat - Apr 3, 05 (#49 of 91)
  • ME TOO. by soxfan1435 - Sep 6, 05 (#50 of 91)
  • I got a book about this woman for Christmas... by *Deej* - Dec 25, 05 (#51 of 91)
  • I was so excited when I found this wonderful... by *Deej* - Dec 26, 05 (#52 of 91)
  • I've been doing some research on Mildred Wirt... by *Deej* - Dec 26, 05 (#53 of 91)
  • This was a whole thing about Mildred Wirt Benson: ... by *Deej* - Dec 26, 05 (#54 of 91)
  • Did anyone know that the second Nancy Drew writer... by ĪBessĪ - May 30, 06 (#55 of 91)
  • Bess: Yes, Walter Karig wrote three of the ND... by kkegley - May 30, 06 (#56 of 91)
  • I respect the name Mildred Wirt Benson, but... by Tay-Tay8 - Aug 5, 06 (#57 of 91)
  • Until I read this discussion, I always thought... by Tay-Tay8 - Aug 5, 06 (#58 of 91)
  • Was 'Augustine' her maiden name? by Tay-Tay8 - Aug 20, 06 (#59 of 91)
  • It was 'Wirt', wasn't it? by Green Hornet - Aug 20, 06 (#60 of 91)
  • I believe that Augustine was her middle name. by Lucky Star - Aug 24, 06 (#61 of 91)
  • I never heard 'Augustine', so maybe that's her... by kkegley - Aug 28, 06 (#62 of 91)
  • That sounds like a logical explanation. by firecrackr092 - Aug 28, 06 (#63 of 91)
  • Okay, here is the official scoop!.. by Lucky Star - Aug 30, 06 (#64 of 91)
  • Wow... by nancy+ned4evr(or frank) - Aug 30, 06 (#65 of 91)
  • Thank you, Lucky. by Green Hornet - Aug 30, 06 (#66 of 91)
  • You're very welcome!.. by Lucky Star - Sep 1, 06 (#67 of 91)
  • Yowza!!.. by Tay-Tay8 - Nov 23, 06 (#68 of 91)
  • Here's a video of her she says something to!.. by talor - May 21, 07 (#69 of 91)
  • Actually a woman changeing names more than once... by Kisa-chan - May 28, 07 (#70 of 91)
  • It said that Mildred Wirt Benson wrote 130 books... by JeffriesGirls2 - Jul 10, 07 (#71 of 91)
  • I havent read them... by talor - Jul 11, 07 (#72 of 91)
  • talor-- I was wondering if you could tell me the... by No.1FaN - Aug 4, 07 (#73 of 91)
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8_ewKQjvOI ... by talor - Aug 11, 07 (#74 of 91)
  • I actually thought that Carolyn Keene was her... by angie2987 - Sep 11, 07 (#75 of 91)
  • I'm sure most did, Angie... by JeffriesGirls2 - Sep 11, 07 (#76 of 91)
  • Yeah, I did too, until I looked up Carolyn Keene... by No.1FaN - Jan 2, 08 (#77 of 91)
  • The only way i found out that Carolyn Keene was a... by cwsoccer13 - Jan 14, 08 (#78 of 91)
  • Same here!.. by angie2987 - Jan 19, 08 (#79 of 91)
  • Oh, you don't have to be embarrassed!.. by No.1FaN - May 17, 08 (#80 of 91)
  • lol!.. by angie2987 - May 22, 08 (#81 of 91)
  • I thought Carolyn Keene wrote them but it was... by Nancy1989 - Jun 25, 08 (#82 of 91)
  • Yes, there were a couple of other regulat writers... by Green Hornet - Jun 25, 08 (#83 of 91)
  • That's right, GH. by No.1FaN - Jul 5, 08 (#84 of 91)
  • HAPPY B-DAY Mildred Wirt Benson!!!!!.. by talor - Jul 10, 08 (#85 of 91)
  • Happy B-Day!!!!.. by angie2987 - Jul 10, 08 (#86 of 91)
  • I know!!!!!.. by talor - Jul 10, 08 (#87 of 91)
  • 102!.. by Nancy1989 - Jul 11, 08 (#88 of 91)
  • wowzers!.. by angie2987 - Jul 11, 08 (#89 of 91)
  • If I could go back in time to and time era, I... by Coaco - Apr 9, 09 (#90 of 91)
  • A guy who used to go to my church met Mildred Wirt... by abbey122525 - Apr 18, 09 (#91 of 91)

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     [F] Nancy Drew Grownups Discussions  / Miscellaneous Nancy Discussions  / About Mildred Wirt Benson