Missing Millie Benson: the Secret Case of the Ghostwriter and Journalist

Feb 17, 2016

An immense and untold number of young persons have been devoted to and greatly influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries which first appeared in 1930.   Maybe Iowans don't realize that author "Carolyn Keene" was really Ladora, Iowa native Mildred Wirt Benson, born the daughter of a country doctor in 1905.

Today, host Charity Nebbe learns more about the life of Benson, who continued working as a reporter at the Toledo (Ohio) Blade newspaper until the day she died in 2002.  Guests are the author of the new book, "Missing Millie Benson" (Ohio University Press), Julie K. Rubini and University of Iowa Professor Emeritus of Journalism and Mass Communication, Carolyn Dyer.  Dyer was the coordinator of the first ever Nancy Drew conference at the University of Iowa in 1993 and co-editor of the 1995 book "Rediscovering Nancy Drew" (University of Iowa Press).

We learn that Benson, born Mildred Augustine, was the first person to earn a Master's Degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism.  While at the UI, she began writing for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which published the popular Hardy Boys series, among many others. She also met her husband Asa in Iowa City, and they both worked at the Iowa City "Press Citizen."  Benson wrote more than 100 novels for young people under the name of Keene and other pseudonyms.  Rubini tells Charity that "Mille" was a tomboy from the start and her belief that girls could do anything boys could do stayed with her and very much influenced her writing.  Dyer, who got to interview Benson late in the writer's life, says "If there was a stereotype of the newspaper man in the 1930's, she was it--she was kind of gruff and no-nonsense."  But Dyer, who recently was given access to Benson's partially-completed autobiography, is thankful for finally being able to speak with the author at her home in Toledo, Ohio.