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The Secret History of the Girl Detective

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Wonderful piece from SmithsonianMag that details the history of the female detective in literature and its link to the real life events it paralleled.

Nancy Drew has become an American icon, but she wasn’t the first of her kind. Young, female detectives existed generations before Drew was dreamed up by publisher Edward Stratemeyer and his syndicate of ghostwriters. (Carolyn Keene, the author listed on so many Nancy Drew covers, was always a pseudonym; the first Keene was 24-year-old writer Mildred Wirt Benson.) Real-life female detectives had emerged in the mid-19th century through the likes of the young widow Kate Warne, a Pinkerton Agency detective who helped smuggle Abraham Lincoln away from would-be assassins in Baltimore. On the page, meanwhile, helped along by a new fashion for teen-sleuth stories, the girl detective gradually emerged to explore a new kind of American female identity.

Read more.


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