Special Collections and University Archives

by Grace Zayobi

The Hard-Boiled Women: Post-World War II Female Detective Fiction exhibition showcases female detective authors that are often overlooked or undervalued. Most of these authors also wrote female detectives as their protagonists. This broke stereotypes and pushed society’s understanding of what women were capable of in the decades following World War II. Many women felt they proved themselves capable when they took over the men’s jobs during the war. But societal pressure when the soldiers returned sent them back home to domesticity. This was an interesting exploration into how women wrote about themselves in a time period when they were exploring their role in society.  

The books are pulled from the Robbie Emily Dunn Collection of American Detective Fiction which primarily has mysteries written by women or starring women. I previously looked through the collection and was unfamiliar with most of the authors so I thought there must be a lot of people who are unaware of these women and their contributions to literature. I chose 11 authors who primarily wrote in the 1940s and 50s about women solving crimes. A few of the protagonists are men but the authors behind them are deserving of praise so I wanted to include them. M. V. Heberden is one of those writers. She wrote over 30 novels, some of them starring her character, Desmond Shannon. Married couples who credited under a pseudonym are also featured in the exhibition. For example, G. G. Fickling (aka Gloria and Forest Fickling) who wrote the iconic Honey West series. 

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