Sunday, September 26, 2010

The First Amateur Female Detective in Print

Since I love reading about female-sleuths, I found myself wondering about the first female-sleuth ever to appear in a book solely devoted to her. Who was she?

I thought back to my own reading experiences and guessed that it would be Nancy Drew or Miss Marple. So I did a little research on both (from Wikipedia):

Nancy Drew: “The character was conceived by Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Stratemeyer had created the Hardy Boys series in 1926 (although the first volumes were not published until 1927). The series had been such a success that he decided to create a similar series for girls, with an amateur girl detective as the heroine. While Stratemeyer believed that a woman's place was in the home, he was aware that the Hardy Boys books were popular with girl readers and wished to capitalize on girls' interest in mysteries with a strong female heroine. The first four titles were published in 1930 and were an immediate success”.

Miss Marple: Agatha Christie’s famous sleuth made her first appearance in a full-length novel named “The Murder in the Vicarage”. This book was also published in 1930.

Hollywood capitalized on the success of both characters and put them in the movies: Miss Marple’s first appearance was in the early 1960’s film “Murder, She Said”, and Nancy Drew showed up in “Nancy Drew - Detective” from the late 1930’s. I’ve seen both films and they are enjoyable.

In a strange coincidence, four films were made from each book series.

They are:
Nancy Drew - Detective - 1938;
Nancy Drew - Reporter - 1939;
Nancy Drew - Trouble Shooter - 1939;
Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase - 1939

and Miss Marple in:

Murder She Said - 1961;
Murder at the Gallop - 1963;
Murder Ahoy - 1964;
Murder Most Foul - 1964.

Does anyone know of a book about a female-sleuth pre-dating 1930? Again, one that would have a book solely devoted to her, and not just be a character in another book.

If so, post a comment and share your knowledge please!


Book Bird Dog said...

The woman who created Nancy Drew and the first 26 books or so in the series was Mildred Werth Benson, one of the first female graduates of the Iowa Unversity School of Writing. She wrote for Stratmeyer,but it wasn't till late in her life that she was recognized for her work as the original creator of Nancy Drew. I had the pleasure of working in the same newsroom with her until her death in the early 2000s, in her 90s.

LadyPI said...

Wow, what an interesting story. Thanks for sharing with us!

Web said...

Nancy Drew was one of my earliest influences... and yet there is so much I dint know about her creation!
Thank you for sharing your discoveries with us!

LadyPI said...

You are welcome. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I recently came across a neat series of female sleuth novels in an old bookstore: The Patsy Carroll series by Grace Gordon. They were published by Cupples & Leon between 1917 and 1921. To my knowledge, there are four books in the series: PATSY CARROLL AT WILDERNESS LODGE, PATSY CARROLL UNDER SOUTHERN SKIES, PATSY CARROLL IN THE GOLDEN WEST and PATSY CARROLL IN OLD NEW ENGLAND.
If you're a vintage Nancy Drew fan, you'll love these!

Genealogist said...

I'd like to know if anyone wrote female detective stories before Grace Gordon. That was her pen name. Her real name was Elsie Duncan Yale, and she very likely traveled to all the places she wrote about, as her father was well to do, and traveled extensively. She also wrote lyrics to 240 hymns.There's a chance that one or two of her siblings were murdered. She was my great great aunt.