Carolyn Keene was the pseudonymous author of the Nancy Drew and Dana Girls series of juvenile mystery books about young girl detectives. In the late 1920s, Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of the Stratemeyer Writing Syndicate, a producer of juvenile series books (including The Rover Boys, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and The Bobbsey Twins), created the penname Carolyn Keene, which was to be the name of the author of a new series based on a teenage heroine named Nancy Drew. Stratemeyer himself wrote the first three plot outlines, including detailed character profiles, while hired ghostwriters fleshed out the finished texts. The character of Nancy Drew represented a new phenomenon in juvenile literature. She was an independent, clever young woman who solved complicated mysteries, with the occasional help of two female friends.
Two weeks after Stratemeyer's death in May 1930, the first Nancy Drew books were published by Grosset and Dunlap. His two daughters Harriet, age 37, and Edna, age 35, then formed a partnership to continue their father's writing empire. The sisters wrote detailed chapter-by-chapter plot outlines for the next fifteen Nancy Drew adventures, as well as outlines for their father's other successful series. They sent them to ghostwriters, but maintained exclusive control over their stories and final published manuscripts.
The Dana Girls book series, about two sister detectives, was introduced by Harriet and Edna in 1934, also under the penname Carolyn Keene. This series continued intermittently until 1979.
In 1942, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams assumed full control of the Stratemeyer Writing Syndicate, which she ran from offices in New Jersey for the next forty years (until her death in 1982 at the age of eighty-nine). She herself wrote the story outlines for Nancy Drew books numbers 19 through 23, and she wrote books number 24 through 58 in their entirety. Harriet Adams was eventually recognized around the world as the real Carolyn Keene. Her role in important series like The Hardy Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, and Tom Swift Jr. was less well known. Beginning in 1956, Adams, with the help of other Syndicate employees and editors, began rewriting the Keene books to shorten and modernize them, and to delete ethnic stereotyping and dialect.
Adams had graduated in 1914 from Wellesley College, where she was editor of the school newspaper. After graduation, she was offered a full-time job as a writer with the Boston Globe and the New York Times, but Edward Stratemeyer refused to let his daughter go out to work. He told her that if she wanted to write, she could work at home for him, editing manuscripts for his series books. It was not until her father's death in 1930 that she and her sister were able to become directly involved in the work of the Stratemeyer Syndicate.
In 1984, two years after Harriet Adams's death, Simon and Schuster bought the Stratemeyer Writing Syndicate, and the Nancy Drew series of books continue to be written by a stable of their writers, still under the penname Carolyn Keene.
See also: Children's Literature.
Kimberley Stratemeyer Adams