The Mystery of Carolyn Keene
The question of who wrote the Nancy Drew books was a mystery for many years. Although Edward Stratemeyer created the characters and synopsis for the first few Nancy Drew books, he did not write them himself, and the actual writers agreed not to reveal their names. We now know that Mildred A. Wirt was the ghostwriter “Carolyn Keene” for 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books. (Mildred was born Mildred Augustine and married men named Wirt and Benson.)
Mildred Wirt Benson (1905-2002) was herself an independent, resourceful woman and she endowed Nancy and many of her other heroines with these same qualities. It is these strong and vivid characteristics of Nancy Drew that made her so beloved of readers and still wildly popular after 75 years.
Mildred Wirt Benson respected the oath of silence she had agreed to with Edward Stratemeyer until the 1980 trial of a lawsuit brought by Grosset & Dunlap against the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Even afterwards, news of her identity as the original Carolyn Keene did not become widely known until the Nancy Drew Conference of 1993 at the University of Iowa.