|Creator:||Benson, Mildred Augustine Wirt (1905-2002)|
|Extent:||1.00 linear foot.|
|Repository:||Iowa Women's Archives|
|Summary:||Journalist for the Toledo Blade and writer of the first Nancy Drew mysteries and other children's series books; collection includes writings, clippings, scrapbooks and a few photographs.|
|View Selected Items Online:||Mildred Wirt Benson papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries|
Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in boxes 1-2
Access: The papers are open for research.
Use: With the exception of the manuscript of 'Runaway Sea Lion' for which the donor retains copyright, copyright has been transferred to the University of Iowa.
Acquisition: The papers (donor no. 108) were donated by Mildred Wirt Benson in 1992, 1993 and 1995. One manuscript, "The Cool One," was donated by the Iowa Historical Society (donor no. 574) in 1998.
Preferred Citation: Mildred Wirt Benson papers, Iowa Women's Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries
|Repository:||Iowa Women's Archives|
|Address:||100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Mildred Augustine was born July 10, 1905 in Ladora, Iowa. She wanted to be a writer from an early age and published her first short story in 1919. She attended the University of Iowa, graduating in 1925, and spent the next year working as a reporter for the Clinton (Iowa) Herald. In 1926 she went to New York, hoping to find a job as a writer. Although unsuccessful, she did meet Edward Stratemeyer, the owner of Stratemeyer Syndicate, which published many popular juvenile fiction series, such as the "Hardy Boys," "Bobbsey Twins" and "Tom Swift" series. Augustine returned to the University of Iowa in 1927, where she became the first woman at that institution to earn a master's degree in journalism. While pursuing her degree, Augustine was offered the opportunity to write a novel in the "Ruth Fielding" series for Stratemeyer. Her work pleased Stratemeyer and after producing several pseudonymous novels, she was offered the opportunity to begin work on a new series, revolving around a girl detective named Nancy Drew. Under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, Augustine wrote 23 of the first 25 books in the series.
In 1928, Mildred Augustine married Asa A. Wirt, who was affiliated with the Associated Press, and moved with him to Cleveland, Ohio. They later moved to Toledo. Through the 1930s and 1940s, Mildred A. Wirt continued to write fiction for children and young adults under her own name, her own pseudonyms (Frank Bell, Joan Clark, Don Palmer, Dorothy West, Ann Wirt), and collective pseudonyms owned by Stratemeyer Syndicate (Julia K. Duncan, Alice B. Emerson, Frances K. Judd, Carolyn Keene, Helen Louise Thorndyke). She wrote over 100 novels, most of which were sold along with any royalty rights to Stratemeyer Syndicate for a flat fee of $125-$250. Wirt also published numerous stories and articles in magazines such as St. Nicholas Magazine, Lutheran Young Folks, Our Boys and Girls, and Calling All Girls, using both her own name and pseudonyms.
In the mid-1940s, Mildred Wirt began to work as a news reporter for the Toledo (Ohio) Times. She earned her pilot's license in the 1960s and became an avid aviator, writing a number of aviation-related articles for newspapers. Asa Wirt died in 1947. In 1950 Mildred Wirt married George A. Benson, her editor at the Times. George Benson died in 1959.
By the mid-1960s, Mildred Benson had ceased writing fiction and was working full time as a court reporter. In the late 1960s, she was approached by a publisher to begin writing juvenile fiction again, but decided against it. She later explained that ". . . the teenagers for whom I wrote lived in a world far removed from drugs, abortion, divorce, and racial clash . . . Any character I might create would never be attuned to today's social problems." [Books at Iowa (November 1973): 24-29]. When the Times went out of business in the 1970s, Mildred Benson went to work for the Toledo Blade. She continued to work at the Blade until the day of her death. In 1993 Benson was inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame. The University of Iowa honored her with its Distinguished Alumni Award in June 1994 and she was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in August 1994.
Researchers should consult Geoffrey S. Lapin, "The Ghost of Nancy Drew," Books at Iowa 50 (April 1989): 8-27; Mildred Wirt Benson, "The Ghost of Ladora," Books at Iowa 19 (November 1973): 24-29; Frank Paluka, "Mildred A. Wirt," Iowa Authors (1967): 197-208; and Carolyn Stewart Dyer and Nancy Tillman Romalov, Rediscovering Nancy Drew (University of Iowa Press, 1995).
This collection is indexed under the following subject terms.