Nancy Drew: The Smart Woman's Role Model

Hillary Clinton, Sonia Sotomayor and others share love of the detective series.

ByABC News via logo
July 8, 2009, 4:37 PM

July 9, 2009 — -- 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.

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.