Just as mysteries increased in popularity among adults during the 1930s and 1940s, a similar appetite for the genre grew among young readers. Publishing syndicates filled the need in part with series books in which the same protagonist or group reemerges in the formulaic plot of each succeeding volume. Unlike adult versions, however, murder was largely absent from juvenile mysteries. Instead, the dilemmas tended to involve lost heirs, hidden treasures, criminal enterprises, or seemingly supernatural occurrences. Adventure and intrigue might abound, but no serious injuries were ever suffered.
Initially, the heroines of girls’ series moved about in the safety of groups before gradually evolving into the singular sleuth typified by Nancy Drew. Several series, in fact, concentrated on the experiences of a troop of Girl Scouts or Camp Fire Girls. The youth movement had originated in Britain with the Boy Scouts in 1908, and the Girls Scouts were established in the United States by 1912. Much like their real-life counterpart, these heroines escaped stereotypical gender expectations with their greater physical activity and explorations of the natural world. On the other hand, both the authors and scouting organizations weakened this potentially inspirational feminist message by emphasizing socially acceptable behavior and training in domestic skills.
Between 1933 and 1936, Virginia Fairfax wrote the six books that comprise the Girl Scout Mystery Series. She had moved to Brookhaven, Mississippi almost ten years earlier and helped to start one the state’s first Girl Scout troops. Set in the Magnolia State, Fairfax’s fictional troop of scouts worked together to unravel the puzzles and secrets encountered while they enjoyed the “elusive lure of the open . . . the thrills of camp sports and the always welcome call of adventure,” as touted by the publisher A.L. Burt Company.
Helen Randolph, the author of the three-volume Mexican Mystery Series published in 1936, was the pseudonym used by co-authors Virginia Fairfax and Helen Allan Ripley. Ripley had immigrated to Monterrey, Mexico as a young child, remaining there until her groom brought her to Brookhaven in 1908. Ripley shared leadership duties in the Scouts with Fairfax, later writing that “Each year we took the girls on a 2 weeks camp, and it was from the interest the girls took in the stories we told around the camp fires that we got the idea of writing the books.”