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Carolyn Dyer papers

Identifier: IWA0884

Scope and Contents

The Carolyn Dyer papers date from 1930-1994 and measure 1.25 linear feet. The collection is divided into 3 series: The Nancy Drew Conference series, Professional, and Mildred Wirt Benson books series. The Nancy Drew Conference series (1993) 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 from the gathering including the New York Times' article, "Nancy Drew: 30s Sleuth, 90s Role Model," which reported from the conference. The bulk of the series 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 also includes an MFA thesis on interpreting Nancy Drew. The Professional series (1984-1993) 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 Nancy Drew books series (1930-1954) consists of Dyer's collection of 109 Mildred Wirt Benson books. The books span multiple decades and include several foreign language editions, including French, Japanese, and Icelandic.


  • 1930-1994


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.

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 at Madison. Dyer completed postgraduate work at the Newberry Library, and later taught at Wisconsin at Madison and Colorado State University. She joined the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at 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. She co-edited Rediscovering Nancy Drew, a collection of essays drawn from the conference.


1.25 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.

Related Materials

The Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson papers. The Nancy Drew Collection papers.
Christina Jensen
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)