Nancy Drew and the Attempted Banishment

It’s a testament to the lasting power of Nancy Drew that yet another screen reincarnation of the beloved book sleuth is on her way. The character may be closing in on 100 years of existence, but many readers today still fondly remember following Nancy through many mysteries. Not all have loved Nancy Drew from the beginning. But she couldn’t be taken down, thanks in part to the teenage girls who channeled their heroine and saved the day.

Not Just Nancy Drew

In the early 1900s, a literary war was being waged on “nickel novels.” Mostly aimed at boy scouts, these novels were considered by librarians to be a “menace of mediocrity.” Rather more graphically, they were thought to “blow out, shoot to pieces, or burn out boy’s imaginations.” It was thought the average 10-year-old ought to turn their sights to higher literature.

Nancy Drew would not be published until 1930, but this was just the beginning of a controversy that would dog series books for decades to come.

Nickel Novel is Peril of Youth

Nickel Novel is Peril of Youth Wed, May 27, 1914 – Page 6 · The Washington Herald (Washington, District of Columbia) · Newspapers.com

Nancy Comes to Life

The instant popularity of Nancy Drew novels painted a target on the series’ back. By 1933 there were already ten titles to her name, and young girls loved them. But these .50 novels, considered successors to the nickel and dime novels, were still being fought against primarily by librarians. One even called them “devices of Satan.” This article from 1944 shows librarians left them out of the stacks because of too-similar plots and impossible situations:

Library doesn't carry Nancy Drew because of

Library doesn’t carry Nancy Drew because of “similarity in plot” & “impossible situations” 1944 Sat, Nov 18, 1944 – Page 12 · The Des Moines Register (Des Moines, Iowa) · Newspapers.com

The 60s saw another wave of parent and librarian disdain for the popular series, while readers continued to be infatuated with Nancy’s cleverness and moxie. When papers shared negative opinions about the “literary garbage” that was Nancy Drew, readers gave back as good as they got:

“Nancy Drew books are not rubbish” 1964 Thu, Feb 6, 1964 – 4 · Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) · Newspapers.com

Teen defense of Nancy Drew series, 1959

Teen defense of Nancy Drew series, 1959 Sun, Feb 22, 1959 – 9 · Pensacola News Journal (Pensacola, Florida) · Newspapers.com

Group of High School Pupils Speak Out on

Group of High School Pupils Speak Out on “Series Books” Mon, Feb 1, 1965 – 8 · The Daily Herald (Provo, Utah) · Newspapers.com

The books were still removed from many libraries, but they could not be kept away from eager readers completely. In time the fervor of fans and changing attitudes toward literature would soften the fight for reform.

Nancy Drew making comeback following critical period

Nancy Drew making comeback following critical period Thu, Apr 8, 1976 – Page 27 · The Journal News (White Plains, New York) · Newspapers.com

Nancy Drew Endures

Ultimately, it’s hard to argue with the evidence of pure enjoyment, as this columnist found. Nancy Drew books got people reading; they were simply a good time. Decades have passed, times have changed, and now reading for fun is not so often considered a moral failing. In fact, Nancy has become a role model for many women across generations.

Nancy Drew an inspiration still in 1994

Nancy Drew an inspiration still in 1994 Sun, Apr 10, 1994 – Page 54 · Daily Record (Morristown, New Jersey) · Newspapers.com

There have been 5 feature films made about Nancy Drew, and October 9th’s new CW series will be the third attempt to bring Nancy to life on television. It just goes to show that 89 years has done little to dampen the love for literature’s favorite teenage sleuthing lass. Are you a fan?

Notice the Clues?

If you like solving puzzles and decoding clues, give this one a try to find a clipping of a real-life Nancy Drew situation on Newspapers.com:

1. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Not Just Nancy Drew” section for the month and date to search.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

_ _

2. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Nancy Comes to Life” section for the year and the name of the paper. (Hint: each paragraph contains one word)

_ _ _ _

_ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _

3. Unscramble the bold letters in the “Nancy Drew Endures” section for the Find/Search term to look for on Page 7. (Hint: each paragraph contains one word)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ | _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

(Click here to skip the clues and go straight to the clipping.)

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5 thoughts on “Nancy Drew and the Attempted Banishment

  1. I remember reading several Nancy Drew books when I was a kid. They were intriguing to even a young boy. The books where probably published in the 1930’s because some of the characters suffered from the effects of being gassed in the Great War.
    I also enjoyed “The Adventures Of Mark Tidd”. Mark Tied was a fat boy with a sense of adventure. His full name in the book was Markus Arebius Fortunas Tidd. It captured the imagination and in some ways brought about skills using wits and critical thinking to solve impossible situations.

  2. I remember reading several Nancy Drew books when I was a kid. They were intriguing to even a young boy. The books where probably published in the 1930’s because some of the characters suffered from the effects of being gassed in the Great War.
    I also enjoyed “The Adventures Of Mark Tidd”. Mark Tidd was a fat boy with a sense of adventure. His full name in the book was Markus Arebius Fortunas Tidd. It captured the imagination and in some ways brought about skills using wits and critical thinking to solve impossible situations.

  3. As a pre-and young teen, as now, I was not a fast reader and would get discouraged with reading, what adults told me were “good books”. But I loved Nancy Drew. When my teacher saw me reading a Nancy Drew book, she
    disdainfully called them “sawdust” books and told me I as the “smart girl” in the class, to quit reading them. To this day, I feels vaguely ashamed to read fictional stories and stick to true stories and informational reading. Maybe I missed something.

  4. When I was a professor at the University of Toledo in the 90’s, I discovered that Mildred Wirt Benson (pen name Carolyn Keene), who wrote the majority of the earliest Nancy Drew books, was working at the Toledo Blade newspaper, where her husband George had been editor. I wrote a letter and thanked Mildred for all the joy I had received from reading the series. As a pre-teen, my mother would give me $1 each month to take to the local book store hoping they would have the latest Nancy Drew mystery for sale. I chuckle reading your article, as I did not know that librarians and others had criticized these series so vehemently. How far we’ve come: Today, educators advise that young readers be allowed to choose books and articles of interest to encourage a lifetime of reading and learning. Nancy Drew was a positive role model for many girls who became women of character, strength, and confidence. Thank you to all who created the characters and books!

  5. I read these books long ago when I was a pre-teenager. My parents bought them for me back in the late 1950s/early 1960s. It was wonderful to have a strong heroine character back then even though I was already being primed to go to college. By the way, as a veteran of the USAF and a retired special librarian (psychiatry), I can say that Nancy did me no harm.

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