Mildred A. Wirt Benson – American Journalist & Author 1905-2002
The most famous writer who worked on the Girls’ Books Series was Mildred A. Wirt Benson. She was bom Mildred Augustine in Ladora, Iowa, in 1905. She met Edward Stratemeyer in New York in 1925 and began working for his syndicate as a writer who fleshed out his plot outlines for juvenile mystery stories. In 1929, she began to write Stratemeyer’s Nancy Drew Mystery Stories for a reported S125.00 per book. In 1950, three years after her husband Asa Wirt died, she married George Benson, the editor of The Toledo Times, from which point her professional career was focused on newspaper writing.
Mrs. Benson reportedly gained her first series book writing experience with Volumes 23 to 30 of the Ruth Fielding Series. She wrote twenty-three of the Nancy Drew books and several Dana Girls and Kay Tracey books, all for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Under her own name, she wrote many other series, such as the Brownie Scouts. Penny Nichols, Penny Parker, and the most unusual to carry the by-line of a woman writer, the six Dan Carter Cub Scouts books for boys.
The Stratemeyer Syndicate did not reveal the names of the actual authors of the Nancy Drew books until after Harriet Stratemeyer Adams’ death in 1982. By the 1990s, the Nancy Drew books that Mrs. Benson wrote for the Stratemeyer Syndicate carried this notice: “Acknowledgement is made to Mildred Wirt Benson, who under the pen name Carolyn Keene, wrote the original NANCY DREW books.”
Mildred Wirt Benson deserves much credit for her work for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, especially for the Nancy Drew books because of their great success after she developed much of their apparent character. In an interview for People Magazine in December 1998, Benson showed her impatience with silly questions and the fuss made about her authorship of Nancy Drew* but apparently she still values her own worth as a writer and creator of fiction and is aware of her importance in the history of series literature.
On May 28, 2002, while she was working on her column for The Blade, the daily newspaper of Toledo. Ohio, Mildred Benson became ill and was taken to the hospital where she died shortly afterward. She wrote more than 130 books and had been a journalist for fifty-eight year’s. She was 96.
Source: All About Collecting Girls’ Series Books. John Axe, 2002.