Happy 110th Anniversary to the original Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson. She was born in Ladora, IA in 1905 on July 10. She was only 24 when she wrote the first Nancy Drew book, The Secret of the Old Clock, in 1929. It was published along with the next two books in the series on April 28, 1930.
I am currently completing a Biography on Benson's life as a Real Life Nancy Drew.
Benson Image, Copyright - The Toledo Blade
Nancy Drew fans are celebrating Benson today at the University of Iowa (Benson's Alma mater), at a program about Benson and Nancy Drew to celebrate the 85th anniversary of Nancy Drew and Benson's 110th. Benson's archive of papers and artifacts plus touring historical sites around the University of Iowa and in the area will cap off a day of playing history detective of sorts and then a set of Nancy Drew books plus a full set of Nancy Drew Computer Games from Her Interactive will be donated to the Iowa City Public Library.
Aside from her legacy as Carolyn Keene, Benson also wrote other books and series--135 published works - many her own books and series and quite a few for the Stratemeyer Syndicate under pen names written on their outlines including the Nancy Drew series. A favorite series of her own that she wrote was the Penny Parker Mystery Stories series:
Benson was also a journalist in Toledo, OH for over fifty years and an adventurer in her later years. Here she is pictured for an aviation story she was doing on the Pepsi Skywriter. She flew until her 90s until her eyesight became too bad.
In her later years she received recognition for having written the early Nancy Drew books and that meant fans would come calling--like our Nancy Drew Sleuths organization of fans and scholars who met her at our first Nancy Drew Convention in 2001 in Toledo, where she signed vintage books for us:
Benson was quite a fascinating woman and some of her adventures have even rivaled those of Nancy Drew - like getting kidnapped in Guatemala once...but those are tales for another day, to be told soon in my forthcoming Benson Biography!