Detective fiction has been predominantly male-centric. Perhaps the first name that comes to mind with regards to this genre is Sherlock Holmes from the popular stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. For young readers, The Hardy Boys offered a taste of adventure and mystery.

Formulaic conventions have been set up way before the emergence of women detectives in the genre. Readers have come to expect a male protagonist in the role of both the investigator and the saviour, and a female character as the damsel in distress.

Here are two of the most famous female sleuths who have shattered these expectations and continue to provide inspiration for women of all ages:

Nancy Drew (from the popular series created by Carolyn Keene)

The iconic girl detective continues to serve as a role model for aspiring super sleuths and even women in power such as Hillary Clinton and Sandra Day O’Connor. Nancy is clever, outspoken, and inquisitive. She shows physical resilience and often takes risks. She almost always finds herself in dangerous situations, but she is able to think quickly on her feet and find a way to get out of harm’s way. She is an independent and well-rounded woman who stands on her own, but she isn’t afraid to ask for help when she needs it.

Harriet M. Welsch (from Harriet the Spy, written and illustrated by Louise Fitzhugh)

Dressed in her signature yellow raincoat and armed with her notebook and pen, Harriet M. Welsch prowls the neighbourhood and records her observations. She is fearless, brutally honest, incredibly astute, decidedly unkempt, and unabashedly unapologetic. She doesn’t spy on people to save the world; she does it for the sheer pleasure of doing so. Harriet remains to be a role model because she doesn’t change who she is to please people. She just learns to adjust and become a little bit wiser.