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Beyond Nancy Drew: A Guide to Girls' Literature

Nurses in Girls' Literature

Ruth Fielding

Created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1913 as a counterpart to their Speedwell Boys series, the Ruth Fielding series was unusual for the era, as it focused on a single heroine. Written by various authors under the pseudonym of Alice B. Emerson, the series contains 30 titles.

Ruth herself is depicted as an independent girl, brave but not without moments of vulnerability. The first half of the series deals with Ruth's years in school, while the second 15 books have plots relating to mysteries and adventures during Ruth's career as a moving picture director, actress, and finally owner of her own movie studio. During the 1st World War, Ruth served as a nurse in France. The Rubenstein Library has the following titles, published between 1913 and 1921 by Cupples & Leon.

Book jacket: Cherry Ames, Night SupervisorCherry Ames, Nurse

The Cherry Ames series is one of the most popular career-oriented series for girls, and has been published internationally. When Helen Wells decided to stop writing the Cherry Ames series, Julie Campbell Tatham took them over, then later returned them to Wells. Cherry began her nursing career as a student, training to be a war nurse. In addition to being a competent and compassionate nurse, Cherry Ames is a bit of a sleuth. The following titles were all published between 1944 and 1959 by Grosset & Dunlap in New York.


  • Wilcox Barbara M. Bunty Brown: Probationer. London: Oxford University Press, 1940.
    "Nurses have splendid chances to travel all over the world, better perhaps than any other women."

  • Wyndham, Lee. Candy Stripers. New York: Julian Messner, Inc., 1958.
    "Suddenly she knew that she wanted to be among the dedicated-she'd never be a nurse, but her hospital experience might lead to laboratory work, even to being a doctor, but it was something real and definite to think about and strive for."

  • James, Josephine. African Adventure. New York: Golden Press, 1965.
    Kathy Martin is a Peace Corps Nurse stationed in Liberia.

  • Kirby, Jean. Nurses Three: Tracy's Little People. Racine, Wis., Whitman Pub. Co., 1965.
    This series focuses on the three Scott sisters and their careers as nurses. Each volume tells the story of a single sister. Other titles focus on Penny and Kelly.

  • McDonnell, Virginia B. Dee O'Hara, Astronauts' Nurse. New York: Nelson, 1965.
    True story about Dee O'Hara and her responsibilities with NASA.

  • Blassingame, Wyatt. Combat Nurses of World War II. New York: Random House, 1967.
    Exciting stories about real nurses' experiences on the frontlines.

Outdoor and Adventure Series

  • The Campfire Girls: This two-part series was first introduced by World Syndicate, and marketed as both the Campfire Girls and the Banner Campfire Girls. The first series was created in 1914 by Jane Stewart. It follows the adventures of best friends Bessie and Zara. The two girls run away from bad situations at home, and encounter the Campfire Girls who offer them shelter and protection. In various escapades, they interact with gypsies, foil kidnappers, outperform boys at sports, and rescue Zara's father from a counterfeiting charge. The second series was written by Julianne DeVries from 1933-1935.
  • Stokes, Katherine. The Motor Maids by Rose, Shamrock and Thistle. Chicago: M. A. Donohue & Co.,1912.|

  • Stokes, Katherine. The Motor Maids at Sunrise Camp. Chicago: M. A. Donohue & Co., 1914.
    Another popular theme for girls' books revolved around the freedom automobiles provided for wealthy young women: the opportunity to travel whenever and wherever they desired. The issue of women's suffrage often emerges in these books- Motor Maids are quick to deny that they are suffragists and seem to be more interested in fashion than politics.

  • Book jacket: Brownie Scouts in the Cherry FestivalHope, Laura Lee. The Outdoor Girls in Florida: or, Wintering in the Sunny South. Outdoor girls series. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1913. 
    This series, written by the author of the ever popular Bobbsey Twins books, was published from 1913 through 1933. These tales "take in the various adventures of several bright, up-to-date girls who love outdoor life. They are clean, wholesome and absorbing throughout."

  • Penrose, Margaret. The Motor Girls in the Mountains; or, The Gypsy Girl's Secret. New York: Goldsmith, 1917. 
    This series was published from 1910-1917. Cora Kimball and her friends are everyday girls who have unusual adventures. They design clothes, shop for the latest hats, and give marvelously clever parties.

  • Roy, Lillian Elizabeth. The Woodcraft Girls in the City. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1918.
    The Woodcraft Girls series, illustrated with photographs, was published 1916-1928. In this book, the girls leave camp for their city homes, but they still manage to enjoy the outdoor life.

  • Wirt, Mildred. The Brownie Scouts in the Cherry Festival. New York: Cupples and Leon, 1950.

  • Wirt, Mildred. The Brownie Scouts and Their Tree House. New York: Cupples and Leon, 1951.
    This series, written by popular and prolific Mildred Wirt, was published from 1949 through 1953. The stories follow the adventures of girls in a Brownie Scout troop, illustrating the scouts' virtues and shortcomings as they learn to be honest, capable, and compassionate citizens.

Girl Detectives: Mysteries for Girls

  • Betty Gordon: This 15 volume Stratemeyer Syndicate series was marketed under the Alice B. Emerson pseudonym. Published by Cupples & Leon between 1920 and 1932, the stories follow the adventures of female sleuth Betty Gordon and her friends.
  • Kay Tracey Mysteries: A clone series based on Nancy Drew, Kay Tracey debuted in 1934. The Kay Tracey books had a fairly long life, lasting for 18 volumes and numerous reprints. Patricia Craig and Mary Cadogan, authors of The Lady Investigates: Women Detectives and Spies in Fiction considered the Kay Tracey books to be: "formula-writing at its most flaccid." The basic formula involved Kay, a 16-year-old who lives in a small town called Brantwood. When not attending high school, she solves mysteries with the help of her best friends, twin sisters named Wilma and Betty. The Rubenstein Library has two titles in this series, both attributed to Frances K. Judd, though The Strange Echo was actually written by Mildred Wirt.
  • Book jacket: Beverly Gray's CareerBeverly Gray: The Beverly Gray series consists of 26 volumes published between 1934 and 1955. The series consists of two types of books: in the first, Beverly goes to college. The later books send Beverly to various exotic and interesting locations, where she has adventures and solves mysteries. The series is published under the name Clair Blank. The following titles were published by Grosset & Dunlap between 1934 and 1940.
  • Trixie Belden: This 39 volume series chronicles the sleuthing endeavors and girlhood escapades of Trixie Belden, sandy-haired detective and tomboy. With her close friends, Honey, Jim, and brothers Mart and Brian, Trixie takes on criminals of every kind. Creator Julie Campbell penned the first six mysteries before passing on her series to other ghostwriters under the name Kathryn Kenny. The series ran from 1948 through 1986. Search the online catalog for a full listing of the many Trixie Belden titles held in the Rubenstein Library.

  • Robin Kane: Robin Kane is an energetic thirteen-year-old who relies on her curiosity and bravery to solve mysteries with the help of a few other "meddling kids." The following titles were published by the Whitman Publishing Company in 1966 and 1967.
  • Book jacket: Spice Island MysteryNorth, Grace May, 1876. The Seven Sleuths' Club. Mystery and adventure series for girls. New York: A. L. Burt Co., 1928.
    Aptly named Merry Lee, president of the S.S.C., leads students of "Miss Demorest's school for select young ladies" in various adventures. Originally called the Sunnyside Club (for their town), then the "Spread Sunshine Club," they become the Seven Sleuth's Club after learning about the boys' Conan Doyle Club.

  • Chandler, Ruth Forbes. Middle Island Mystery. London: Abelard-Schuman, 1961.
    Twelve year old Sarah spends summer on an island in Maine, baby-sitting to earn enough money for a new dog for her brother. Though her job isn't easy, she has a few thrilling experiences, including exploring the secret of Middle Island's spooky old house.
  • Stone, Alan. The Tollivers and the Mystery of the Old Jalopy. The Tolliver adventure series; 3. Cleveland: World Pub. Co., 1967.
    The Tollivers are a middle-class African-American family who solve mysteries together.

  • Cavanna, Betty. Spice Island Mystery. New York: Morrow, 1969.
    A runner-up for the Edgar Allen Poe Award in 1970. After finishing college in New England, a young woman returns to her home on the island of Granada. She works as a librarian, reconnects with people from her past, and becomes entangled in a real estate scam.