April 1993 was a mysterious month! The original Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson, was unmasked in a huge way to mainstream America - as she said, they "blew her cover!" At the Nancy Drew Conference, which attracted fans from all over who converged on Iowa City and the University of Iowa, scholars and fans intermingled and shared their Nancy Drew stories of rediscovery. Benson was honored as well and was even ABC's Person of the Week. This past week, Nancy Drew Sleuths held their first of three Nancy Drew Mini Cons in Iowa City to honor the 85th anniversary of Nancy Drew and the 110th Anniversary of Mildred Wirt Benson and met with the organizers of the 1993 conference, Carolyn Dyer and Nancy Romalov - editors on the book about the conference pictured above. Touring historical sites related to Benson and the fictional Midwestern "River Heights" were highlights of the event. The next two mini cons will be held in OH and NJ in May and June.
It was discovered at the University of Iowa, that Mildred Wirt Benson was their first student to earn a Masters in Journalism. She was also missing from the Hall of Fame! An assistant professor, Sue Lafky, started a campaign to get Mildred into the Hall of Fame. Once Mildred made it onto the ballot and the awards ceremony was announced, many Nancy Drew fans began to call the university wanting to attend and to meet Mildred.
Nancy Romalov, one of the conference organizers, was researching girls' series books and also teaching a course and she introduced everyone to the series book world and its many facets.
An idea began to develop of hosting what would become the Nancy Drew Conference. Journalism Professor, Carolyn Stewart Dyer, and Romalov began planning.
The Nancy Drew Conference
As Dyer writes in the book about the conference, Rediscovering Nancy Drew, that the conference had several objectives: 1. Examine Nancy Drew as part of American popular culture through an exploration of the history of the series; 2. To make known Benson's role in the development of the character of Nancy Drew; 3. Dig into the controversies surrounding the series; and 4. To address the impact of the series on the lifetime reading habits of fans and their sense of themselves.
The conference was a moment of rediscovering Nancy Drew for many who came and was the first conference of its kind with 500 in attendance. Those who showed up were a diverse group of fans of all ages, scholars, librarians and teachers.
Benson was named to both the Ohio and Iowa Women's Halls of Fame. The next year after the conference, she received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Iowa.
The Nancy Drew & series book zine, The Sleuth, featured several issues in 2008 with remembrances by those who attended this conference in 1993.