There are some seriously strong women in literature, as well as the wonderful women who write about them. In recognition of International Women’s Day, here are six of my favourite strong female protagonists who prove that they don’t need anyone but themselves.
1. Jane Eyre
“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”
Jane Eyre may be small and gentle but in a time when women were expected to have a quiet, small voice, she uses hers to show her self worth and spirit to be equal to men. With a deep-rooted moral code, she doesn’t bend to the will of others even when it wrenches her heart.
2. Hermione Granger
“I’ve learned all the course books by heart, of course. I just hope it will be enough – I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”
Hermione has been one of my favourite female characters since she introduced herself with wild hair and self-confidence. While at first considered annoying by her classmates, Hermione is not afraid to be exactly who she is: clever and discerning and a lover of knowledge. She made it okay for teenage girls to value intelligence and good grades, to care about social justice and change.
3. Anne Shirley
“People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”
Anne Shirley – unselfconsciously speaks her mind and unafraid to stand up for herself. She is imaginative, ambitious, and smart, with a temper as red as her hair.
4. Katniss Everdeen
“No one will forget me. Not my look, not my name. Katniss. The girl who was on fire.”
She is a masterful huntress, an uncomplaining caregiver, a survivalist. Because of her strength, a revolution was inspired in her name. She chooses love, not because it saves her, but because it compliments her.
5. Jo March
“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten afdon’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.”
Jo March from Little Women is smart and argumentative, and doesn’t buy into the gender roles of her day. She cuts off all her hair, she speaks her mind, and doesn’t need a romantic relationship with her best male friend, because she has plans for her own life.
6. Paige Mahoney
“My father thought I would lead a simple life; that I was bright but unambitious, complacant with whatever work life threw at me.
My father, as usual, was wrong.”
One of my favourite recent books, The Bone Season, features Paige Mahoney, a sarcastic and defiant clairvoyant with an Irish temperment in a futuristic dystopian setting. She looks her frightening enemies in the eye and refuses to cower before them. She is resourceful and clever, a natural problem solver. I adore everything about this complex firecracker of a woman.
So here’s to the fictional women that show us that it’s okay to speak our minds, to say no, to respect ourselves, to be complete and whole people even when single, to kick ass. May there be many more to come.
I’d love to hear about which female characters have inspired you! Who would you add to this list?