Moxie and a Good Sense of Balance: Nancy Drew and the Power of the Teenage Girl. Book presentation given by author Lynne Byall Benson; hosted by the Friends of the Charlestown Branch of the Boston Public Library. Free and open to all, including a book signing and reception.
Lynne Byall Benson’s new book Moxie and a Good Sense of Balance: Nancy Drew and the Power of the Teenage Girl starts with: “Nancy Drew first saved the day on April 28, 1930, when she found the missing will, bested the interlopers, and set all to right in The Secret of the Old Clock.” Anyone growing up inspired by the Nancy Drew mysteries will be in earnest to continue past that first sentence.
The literary character of Nancy Drew, created by the Stratemeyer publishing syndicate in the 1930s, has continued to endure for more than eighty years, with all the books still in print. Successfully solving complicated mysteries, Nancy Drew offered girls the role model of a confident, independent young woman, functioning simultaneously within what was considered appropriate, within the sphere of her gender, but also outside of that sphere in terms of her so-called moxie.
Nancy Drew’s portrayal in these books has changed over the years, reflecting changing social norms, becoming a more obedient and less independent in the 1940s, as women returned to traditional roles after World War II. Surprisingly, the Nancy Drew of the 1970s and 1980s did not reflect the changes brought about by the women’s movement and instead was transformed into a glamorous, globe-trotting professional private investigator in The Nancy Drew Files.
The publishers soon came to their senses and brought back the plucky Nancy of old. Her cars can almost serve as a metaphor of how her character has morphed over time. Nancy first started out driving a blue roadster in the early volumes. In the 1970s, it becomes a blue convertible. Next it was a blue Ford Mustang. Then in the early 2000’s, Nancy started driving a blue Hybrid.
In Benson’s Moxie and a Good Sense of Balance: Nancy Drew and the Power of the Teenage Girl, Nancy Drew is analyzed as a proto-feminist role model. In addition, Benson also provides a comprehensive bibliography of sources that can be used by scholars and teachers.
Lynne Byall Benson is a lecturer in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at UMASS Boston and also an adjunct professor in the English Department at Bunker Hill Community College.
The Friends of the Charlestown Branch of the Boston Public Library was formed in 1953, becoming the second Friends group to organize within the Boston Public Library system. The Friends schedule four to six evening programs a year, support the Reading is FUNdamental programs for children, and maintain the library’s landscaping. The mission of the Friends remains today what it was in 1953: to serve as an advocacy and support group for the needs of the Charlestown Branch Library, its staff and users.
Certain books were “banned in Boston” at least as far back as 1651, when one William Pynchon wrote a book criticizing Puritanism.