Although the careers may vary, the heroines of the girls’ series regularly find time to solve mysteries and have adventures while maintaining their fashionable looks. For most of the career girls, their jobs merely supply an excuse to visit exotic or quaint locales that provide a scenic backdrop to the mysteries that they inevitably encounter in the course of their work and travels.
These enterprising young women gain independence from their close knit families by leaving their small town homes to pursue exciting new careers in the big city. Some, like Beverly Gray and Vicki Barr, first attend college or a professional training program, where they meet new friends who will accompany them on future adventures. Although most of the girls attract male admirers, romance generally does not play a significant role in the lives of these busy heroines.
Nursing was a popular profession for girls’ series’ leading characters, particularly during the first half of the twentieth century. One of the earliest examples in this genre appears midway through the Ruth Fielding series when the title character volunteers as a nurse in World War I. Sue Barton was a popular and well written nursing series published between 1936 and 1952.
The U.S. involvement in World War II prompted the publication of several girls’ books and series devoted to nurses. Begun in 1943, the Cherry Ames Nurse series, one of the most popular series, not only provided wholesome entertainment for adolescent girls, but also incorporated the patriotic message that young women could play an active role in the war effort both in the battlefield and on the home front.
Not all girl detectives were as perfect as Nancy Drew. Among the sleuths depicted on a more human scale were Judy Bolton, Trixie Belden, and Carol Duncan of the Melody Lane series. Nancy Drew has the freedom and the money to act independently and do as she pleases. These other girl sleuths attended school, worked around the house or at a job, and coped with the restraints of a more traditional family situation.
Judy Bolton solves riddles and problems and exposes secrets, but she must cope with family responsibilities and her own limitations. Likewise, Trixie Belden must struggle with her math homework, chores, and obnoxious brothers. Judy and Trixie are not the heroic figures that Nancy Drew is, but they are appealing because they are realistic and believable.