Mildred Benson, Spunky Iowa Woman

  • Mildred Benson

    Mildred Wirt Benson in her writing room among her books, Toledo, Ohio, summer 1949. (The Toledo Blade) 

  • Mildred Benson

    Mildred Augustine Benson diving into Iowa River at Iowa City, Iowa in mid-1920's 97-0004. (Iowa Women's Archives) 

  • Mildred Benson

    Birthplace of Mildred Augustine Benson in 1905. House built by Dr. J.L. and Mrs. Lillian Augustine in Ladora, Iowa. In 1992, still occupied by member of Augustine family. Mildred Augustine standing on porch. On left, a sleeping porch was added to original structure. M.B. ca. 1915-1920. (Iowa Women's Archives) 

  • Mildred Benson

    Photo by Jack Ackerman for the Toledo Blade, 1987; 1989; Millie Benson 2704 Middlesex Dr. Toledo, OH 43606; 97-0003. (The Toledo Blade) 



In celebration of its 25th anniversary, the Iowa Women’s Archives displayed 25 collections in an exhibit at the UI Main Library. Among its honorees is journalism alumna Mildred “Mille” Wirt Benson (MA ’27).

Before Carolyn Keene

Benson, the first person to receive a master’s degree from the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communications, spent much of her career as a column writer at the Toledo Blade. However, she is most remembered for her work on the famed Nancy Drew series, written under the pen name Carolyn Keene. The items in the Mildred Wirt Benson collection include memory books, yearbooks, manuscripts, and books collected over time by Carolyn Keene and Nancy Drew fans. 

UI Professor Emeritus Carolyn Dyer, fan and collector, donated many pieces to the Iowa Women’s Archive Collection. 

“Researchers, writers, filmmakers, and Nancy Drew fans who use the collection learn that Millie Benson was a lot like Nancy Drew,” Dyer said.” She could do almost everything, almost perfect.”

Benson’s books were translated into numerous languages upon publication.
Benson’s books were translated into
numerous languages upon publication.

Benson to the Iowa Women’s Archive

On November 10, the Iowa Women’s Archive hosted a symposium and a walking tour of the exhibit and archives. They highlighted the Nancy Drew collection containing Benson’s books written in including German, French and 15 other languages for the world to enjoy. 

The purpose of the Iowa Women’s Archive is to provide a history of how women have not only changed Iowa, but changed the world. Karen Mason, curator of the Iowa Women’s Archive, said Benson is a quintessential example of their overall message with the archives. 

"...Millie Benson was a lot like Nancy Drew,” Carolyn Dyer said.” She could do almost everything, almost perfect.”

“She was such a spunky woman for someone in her time,” Mason said. “That’s why we chose her famous swan dive photo as our logo for the 25th anniversary of the women’s archive.”

Mary Louise Smith and Louise Noun, who started the archive in 1992, were raised on different values, but came together to highlight women’s history in Iowa. 

Benson died on May 28, 2002 at the age of 96.