The Ruth Fielding Series
by Alice B. Emerson

Grudgingly, Uncle Jabez had....furnish[ed] her with clothes and spending money.  It was plain he had never approved of her being away from the mill during vacations, too.

Uncle Jabez saw no reason for young people "junketing about" and spending so much time in pleasure, as Ruth's friends did.  Boys and girls learned to work, in his day, between short terms at school.  It was all so different now, that the old man could not be blamed for misunderstanding.

For a girl to look forward to making a name for herself in the world—to have a career—to really be somebody—was something of which Uncle Jabez (and Aunt Alvirah as well) could not fail to disapprove.

Ruth desired to prepare for college, and in time enter a higher institution of learning.  She wished, too, to cultivate her voice, and to use it in supporting herself later....Uncle Jabez did not believe in such things.  He would never be willing to invest money in making a singer of his niece.  Useless to think of it!

                                                                            —page 158, Ruth Fielding and the Gypsies

The Ruth Fielding Series is a 30 volume series that was published by Cupples and Leon from 1913 through 1934.  Three authors wrote the series under the pseudonym of Alice B. Emerson.  W. Bert Foster wrote volumes 1 through 19; Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward wrote volumes 20 through 22; and Mildred A. Wirt Benson wrote volumes 23 through 30.

This series is important because it influenced several other major series that came later, including Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, and Beverly Gray.  Ruth Fielding is a strong-willed young woman, just like Nancy Drew, and she is also a career woman like Beverly Gray.

In the early books, Ruth Fielding attends boarding school just like the Dana Girls.  Ruth's school is run by a married couple but with the wife in the authoritative role.  Just like in the Dana Girls series, the husband of the headmistress is known as a very learned man who is hopelessly absentminded and of no practical use in the running of the school.

Titles in the Ruth Fielding Series:

  1. Ruth Fielding of the Red Mill, 1913
  2. Ruth Fielding at Briarwood Hall, 1913
  3. Ruth Fielding at Snow Camp, 1913
  4. Ruth Fielding at Lighthouse Point, 1913
  5. Ruth Fielding at Silver Ranch, 1913
  6. Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island, 1915
  7. Ruth Fielding at Sunrise Farm, 1915
  8. Ruth Fielding and the Gypsies, 1915
  9. Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures, 1916
10. Ruth Fielding Down in Dixie, 1916
11. Ruth Fielding at College, 1917
12. Ruth Fielding in the Saddle, 1917
13. Ruth Fielding in the Red Cross, 1918
14. Ruth Fielding at the War Front, 1918
15. Ruth Fielding Homeward Bound, 1919
16. Ruth Fielding Down East, 1920
17. Ruth Fielding in the Great Northwest, 1921
18. Ruth Fielding on the St. Lawrence, 1922
19. Ruth Fielding Treasure Hunting, 1923
20. Ruth Fielding in the Far North, 1924
21. Ruth Fielding at Golden Pass, 1925
22. Ruth Fielding in Alaska, 1926
23. Ruth Fielding and Her Great Scenario, 1927
24. Ruth Fielding at Cameron Hall, 1928
25. Ruth Fielding Clearing Her Name, 1929
26. Ruth Fielding in Talking Pictures, 1930
27. Ruth Fielding and Baby June, 1931
28. Ruth Fielding and Her Double, 1932
29. Ruth Fielding and Her Greatest Triumph, 1933
30. Ruth Fielding and Her Crowning Victory, 1934

This series has several strong similarities to the Nancy Drew series.  During the early volumes in the series, Ruth has quite a few friends, but by volume 11, Ruth's primary friends are Helen Cameron and Jennie Stone.  The trio of friends is similar to that of Nancy, Bess, and George in the Nancy Drew series.  Jennie Stone is overweight and loves to eat, just like Bess.  Helen is a weak person who tends to be frivolous and silly, so her personality contrasts sharply with Ruth's, just as Nancy's did with those of her friends.

Ruth's attitude towards marriage and independence is very similar to that of Nancy Drew.  In Ruth Fielding on the St. Lawrence, Ruth reflects about her feelings for Tom Cameron and how she feels about getting married.

As Ruth saw it (no matter what may have been her secret feeling for Tom) to do as Tom wished would utterly spoil the career on which she had now entered so successfully.

Tom, like most young men in love, considered that a girl's only career should be a husband and a home.  He frankly said that he was prepared, young as he was, to supply both for Ruth.

But their youth, in the first place, was an objection in the very sensible mind of Ruth.  It was true, too, that a second objection was the fact that she wanted to live her own life and establish herself in the great career she had got into almost by chance.

And then too Tom himself, since his return from France, had shown little determination to settle himself at work.  Being the son of a wealthy merchant and possessing, now that he was of age, a fortune in his own right inherited from his mother's estate, Tom Cameron, it seemed to Ruth, was just playing with life.

Like many another young fellow so recently from the battlefield, it seemed as if he could not settle to anything.  And his sister encouraged him in this attitude.  Ruth secretly blamed Helen for this.  And therefore her own attitude to Tom had grown more stern.

Unlike Nancy Drew, Ruth Fielding does eventually marry Tom Cameron, and some people have theorized that Ruth's marriage may have been a factor in the waning popularity of the Ruth Fielding series.  Nancy Drew never changed and is the one series that has lasted up to the present day.

Brief Series Synopsis

This series follows the life of Ruth Fielding from the time that she becomes an orphan, through her schooling and her first success as a moving picture writer, and finally to her success as the owner of the Ruth Fielding Film Company.

The following synopsis contains spoilers for the overall plot of the series

Volumes 1-10:  Ruth Fielding is an orphan who goes to live with her uncle, Jabez Potter, and his housekeeper, Aunt Alvirah Boggs, who is described as "nobody's relative, but everybody's aunt."  Uncle Jabez reluctantly provides for Ruth and never expresses any kind of love for her, while Aunt Alvirah loves her like a daughter.  Ruth is determined to find her way in the world and become completely independent of her uncle.  Ruth makes friends with twins Helen and Tom Cameron, who are from a wealthy family.  She attends Briarwood Hall with Helen Cameron and soon has her first success at writing a moving picture scenario.  Her successful writing enables Ruth to become independent of her miserly uncle.

Volumes 11-18:  Ruth, Helen, and Jennie "Heavy" Stone attend Ardmore College together.  Ruth continues to write moving picture scenarios and achieves even greater success.  The girls leave college when the Great War begins and travel to Europe to help with the war effort.  In time, the war ends, and Jennie Stone marries a French soldier.  Tom Cameron suggests that he and Ruth make plans for their future, but Ruth wants a career and feels that marriage would be an obstacle.  Ruth also feels that Tom is lazy and wants him to prove himself before they make a commitment.

Volumes 19-22:  Ruth receives financial backing from an unknown person, and the Ruth Fielding Film Company is created.  Tom helps Ruth manage her film company and finally finds his niche in life.  Already a talented writer, Ruth is now a successful director and soon discovers that she can also be a gifted actress.  Ruth continues to delay discussing her future with Tom.

Volumes 23-26:  Ruth enters a contest and wins a motion picture prize, further establishing her reputation.  Tom Cameron disappears mysteriously, and while Ruth worries about him, she realizes that her place is by his side.  Once Tom is found, Ruth marries Tom, and the two establish their home in Hollywood.  Ruth faces her greatest struggle when she is accused of plagiarism and is forced to clear her name.  Soon, Ruth breaks into talking pictures and becomes the victim of another plot after she is forced to discharge a number of actors whose voices are not good for the talking pictures.

Volumes 27-30:  Ruth gives birth to Baby June and faces the most difficult struggle of her life when the baby is kidnapped.  The baby is eventually found, and Ruth returns to the pictures.  Ruth faces more struggles in her work, caused by a double who tarnishes her reputation and yet another vengeful former employee.  Finally, Ruth goes to Europe with Helen on an extended vacation and finds herself involved in royal intrigue.

Building a Set

Most of the books can be purchased very inexpensively, with or without dust jackets.  Volumes 25 through 30 are the hardest to find titles, and they will usually cost more than the first 24 volumes.  The beginning of the Great Depression caused print runs to be much lower for series books, so this affected the quantities printed for volumes 25 through 30.  Additionally, volumes 25 through 30 were printed with only the final style of dust jacket, and some of these titles likely saw only one printing.  On the contrary, volume 24 went through at least two printings, one in each of the final two dust jacket styles.  For me personally, volume 28 was the most difficult to find title, followed by volume 26.


The Ruth Fielding books are not in great demand, so the value of most of the books is minimal, both with and without dust jackets.  Most of the books in the series can be purchased for under $10.00, even with intact dust jackets.  The last five books are more scarce, but the low demand makes it possible to find even the scarce titles at low prices.  I have noticed some sellers trying to get $50.00 and up on eBay for the final titles without intact dust jackets, and the listings usually close without buyers.  The final titles seem to sell for good prices only when the dust jackets are present.

It should be noted that I spent a couple of years building my set of Ruth Fielding books and only purchased books with intact dust jackets.  Even though I often bid aggressively on eBay, the highest price I paid for any of my books is $30.00 since few other people were interested.

I purchased a total of 54 Ruth Fielding books during the time that I was building my set.  I ended up with 54 books since I acquired multiple copies of some titles as I found examples in different formats.  33 of my books cost between $4.00 and $10.00.  15 of my books cost between $10.00 and $20.00.  6 of my books cost between $20.00 and $30.00.  Once again, all of the books that I purchased have intact dust jackets so it is possible to build a set of these books without having to pay a high price for any of the books.


Since the series consists of sequential events and Ruth ages as the series progresses, this series is best read in order by volume.  In some cases, several sequential volumes tell one complete story.  For instance, volumes 13 through 15 tell the story of Ruth's work with the Red Cross during World War I.  It is difficult to write summaries that do not reveal too much information when each book leads into the next book.  I have decided to be intentionally vague and have avoided mentioning certain aspects of the stories in order not to spoil the plots. 

Summaries of volumes 1-10

Summaries of volumes 11-20

Summaries of volumes 21-30

Dust Jacket Gallery

My Ruth Fielding Blog Posts

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