Nancy Drew: The Smart Woman's Role Model

Modern female role models might include Hannah Montana or Beyonce, but there was a time when pre-teen girls would pick up a Nancy Drew book and be transported to a world where a brave, smart young woman fought villains and solved mysteries.

Nancy Drew became a role model for some very accomplished women, including Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, whose hearings begin next week.

Clever, gutsy and decidedly independent, the legendary girl detective has been around for quite a while. Nancy Drew actually sprang to life in 1930, just 10 years after women got the right to vote. Some say she was America's first feminist.

VIDEO: Accomplished women like Sonya Sotomayor site the Drew books as inspiration.

Nancy Drew made brains seem well worth having. She was all about smarts appeal, rather than sex appeal.

"She really used her mind. She had deductive skills and reasoning and logic -- she was a very logical person," said Jennifer Fisher, the author of "Clues for Real Life: The Classic Wit and Wisdom of Nancy Drew." "She also had a lot of determination -- no matter how many things got in her way, no matter how any obstacles, no matter how many villains [tried] to get her off the case, she had this great determination to succeed, no matter the odds."

The books, written by numerous authors under the pen name Carolyn Keene, targeted girls between the ages of 8 and 12 and were hugely popular through the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

"Nancy hailed from ... a Midwestern town; no specific state was ever mentioned," Fisher said. "[Drew] was about 16 when the books first debuted. Later, she aged to age 18 in the 1950s."

Nancy Drew's can-do approach to solving mysteries within the pages and on the silver screen inspired generations of women.

It's notable just how many fans she has in high places. They include former first lady Laura Bush, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Sotomayor, whose brother Juan Sotomayor recalled the fictional heroine's influence on his big sister's life in an interview with ABC News.

Nancy Drew: 'Intrepid Young Woman'

Calling his sister "a habitual reader," Juan Sotomayor said reading the books were "one of her favorite pastimes."

The character appealed to his sister, he said, because of her industry and the fact that she was always persistent, a skill Sotomayor clearly made her own.

It comes as no surprise, really, that the two other women on the top bench -- Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg -- also were fans. Nancy Drew was fearless, Ginsberg once explained.

"She was very bold, you know, going out at night in the woods, searching in secret attic rooms and musty passageways, chasing after facts at night," Fisher said. "She did all kinds of bold things that most of us would never dream of doing."

The underlying message that women could go out and achieve greatness on their own resonated across social, racial and generational lines, even in the "Good Morning America" family.

"I discovered that all around me, among my friends, are Nancy Drew fans," "Good Morning America" anchor Diane Sawyer said in 2007. "Back in the '50s, back in the '60s, in the world of Donna Reed and then Barbie dolls, there was an intrepid young woman who inspired women like this."

"Nancy was the first person that wasn't a princess or looking for her man," said "GMA" contributor Lee Woodruff. "She had stuff to do."

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