Skip to main content

Carolyn Dyer papers

Identifier: IWA0884

  • Staff Only
  • Please navigate to collection organization to place requests.

Scope and Contents

The Carolyn Dyer papers date from 1905 to 2016 and measure 15 linear feet (35 boxes). The papers are arranged in 6 series: The Nancy Drew Conference series, Professional, Mildred Wirt Benson Books, International Nancy Drew publications, Revised Nancy Drew publications, and Supplemental Nancy Drew publications. The last four series consist primarily of books.

The Nancy Drew Conference series chronicles the first conference held on the legacy and impact of the Nancy Drew novels. Organized by Dyer at the University of Iowa, the conference included a reception for Mildred Wirt Benson and breakout sessions on the Nancy Drew books and their relationship with notions of gender, childhood, and culture. The series features a list of participants, conference schedule, and press which reported from the conference. News publications span from pre-conference promotional material to works in the late nineties looking back on the event. Paper submissions, both professional and student, are included. The series also consists of testimonials from individuals on their experience with Nancy Drew. Solicited from men and women across generations and across the country, the testimonial, range from 500-1500 words and feature memories and interpretations of Nancy Drew. Themes include the escapist nature of Nancy Drew in youthful imaginations, Nancy Drew as a 'perfect teen', a figure of admiration and resentment, and feminist reflections on the influence of Nancy Drew. The series includes an MFA thesis on interpreting Nancy Drew. It also houses the pre-conference planning papers. Requests for funding, planning commissions, and research on Mildred Wirt Benson and Nancy Drew are included.

The Professional series contains printed theses and dissertations that Dyer supervised in the school of Journalism at the University of Iowa. Many of the works focus on gender, the press, and the Midwest. The bulk of the series consists of Dyer’s research into Nancy Drew and her impact on the world. This is broken up into types of research: TV, films, scholarly essays, international, etc. Drafts for papers and speeches based on this research are also housed here. Her research on Mildred Wirt Benson, including Dyer’s nomination of Benson to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame, comprises more work about Nancy Drew and her creator. There are also works not about Nancy Drew, such as the paper “The Business of Publishing Newspapers in Antebellum Wisconsin”, included in this series. A collection of Dyer’s correspondence with artist Laura Ruby and the pictures of her displays is housed here.

The Mildred Wirt Benson Books series consists of Dyer's collection of ninety Mildred Wirt Benson books. These include her four standalone works, the Ruth Fielding books, the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (most are Applewood reprints of the original text), the Doris Force Mystery Stories, the Madge Sterling series, the Kay Tracy Mystery Stories, the three books in the Mystery Story for Girls series, the Dana Girls Mystery Stories, the Mildred A. Wirt Mystery Series, the Penny Nichols Mystery Series, the Penny Parker Mystery books, the Brownie Scouts, the Dan Carter series, and the Girl Scouts books.

The International Nancy Drew series contains Nancy Drew books from outside the United States. There are five books from Norway, eight from Sweden, one from Britain, one from Japan, five from France, one from Iceland, and one from Finland.

The Revised Nancy Drew series are the printings of Nancy Drew that Grosset & Dunlap started to rework in 1959. An explanation of why the publisher chose to start their revision process and the details of what changed is included.

The Supplemental Nancy Drew is comprised of non-Mildred Wirt Benson Nancy Drew books and Nancy Drew adjacent materials. Nancy Drew: the Case of the Disappearing Deejay is not by Benson, instead it is by another Iowan writer Carol Gorman. The Nancy Clue Mystery books are an alternate series written by Mabel Maney featuring a lesbian version of Nancy Drew. The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, The Nancy drew Scrapbook, and the Nancy Drew Anthology are all scholarly works looking at the impact Nancy Drew has had on the world.


  • Creation: 1905-2016


Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been transferred to the University of Iowa.

However, copyright status for some collection materials may be unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility and potential liability based on copyright infringement for any use rests exclusively and solely with the user. Users must properly acknowledge the Iowa Women’s Archives, The University of Iowa Libraries, as the source of the material. For further information, visit

Biographical / Historical

Carolyn Dyer was a professor of journalism at the University of Iowa for 38 years. After earning her bachelor's degree, Dyer worked as a newspaper and radio reporter for six years in Green Bay and Madison, Wisconsin, before earning a Ph.D. in Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dyer completed postgraduate work at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and later taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Colorado State University. She joined the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Iowa in 1978, where she developed The Iowa Guide: Scholarly Journals in Mass Communication and Related Fields, and saw her research published in Journalism Quarterly, The Georgetown Law Journal, and Journalism History.

Dyer's research initially focused on nineteenth-century journalism, and later on news coverage of rape and of mental illness. Dyer received press for her hand in the discovery that Mildred Wirt Benson was the ghostwriter behind the first Nancy Drew books, under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. She went on to organize and chair the first conference on Nancy Drew, held at the University of Iowa in 1993. Inspired by the conference she co-edited Rediscovering Nancy Drew, a collection of discussions and essays from the event in 1994. The next decade saw her crowned the “Nancy Drew Queen” and invited to Nancy Drew events around the country and Sweden.

Dyer retired from the University of Iowa in 2009. She gained the title Professor emerita and continuing to consult with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication for the next ten years. She passed away in the fall of 2020.


15.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials









Professor Emeritus of Journalism at the University of Iowa and Nancy Drew scholar.

Method of Acquisition

The papers (donor no. 864) were donated by Carolyn Dyer in 2009 and 2018.

Related Materials

The Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson papers (IWA)

The Nancy Drew Collection papers (IWA)

The Laura Ruby papers (IWA)

Christina Jensen; Avery Porter, 2022.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)