In my last post, I described seven women (real-life and fictional) who have awed and inspired generations of readers. The catch is: I didn’t reveal their names. Did you guess who all of them are? Check the answers at the end of this post to see how you did.
Oh, aced it, did you? Well, fine. Here are seven more “strong female characters.” See how you do with this batch!
1. Genre: Fiction; Published, 1847. This oppressed young woman was berated, abused, manipulated, and at last betrayed by the man she loved. Through it all, she never wavered from what she knew was right. She didn’t let others use her for their own purposes, and in the end, found happiness without compromising her sense of self. High drama, shocking secrets in the attic, and a brooding hero make this heroine a favorite with teenage girls.
2. Genre: Ancient hero tale. Beautiful, devout, courageous, and very clever, this woman ventures out of her besieged city into the camp of the enemy. Not only that, but into the tent of the enemy General himself. He’s determined to seduce her, but she’s too wily for him. She kills him and gets out of camp before they even know what’s happened. Some men get around beautiful women and just can’t keep their heads.
3. Genre: Adult fiction; Published, 2009. Fresh from college, this young woman returns to her Mississippi home ready to take on the world. In an attempt to snag the interest of a big New York editor, she interviews the black women of her town about what it’s like to work for the white families. What she finds out shocks her out of her comfortable white existence; her search for justice stirs up unrest and threatens to upend the way of life she’s always known. I confess it flattered me deeply when two people said that the main character reminded them of me. Probably because we’re both writers and say “y’all,” but why nitpick details?
4. Genre: Juvenile/young adult fiction; Published: 1908. Poetic, introspective, and nonstop chatterer, this orphaned girl was taken in by a family by accident; they wanted a boy. As she grows up in the small island community, her courage, flights of imagination, and epic mistakes (anyone care for raspberry cordial?) eventually win the tightly-guarded heart of her spinster guardian—not to mention the handsome village boy who finds her more than a match for his intelligence.
5. Genre: Young adult science fiction; Published, 1963. This teenager is a difficult student, but much smarter than her teachers realize. With a school friend and her younger brother, a child prodigy, she travels across space and time to find her father. When her brother is instead entrapped by the enemy, she is the one chosen to rescue him, thanks to her growing emotional maturity and her love for her family. Reading this book will give you a new way to look at rows of suburban homes with matching lawns and neat sidewalks.
6. Genre: Young Adult fiction; Published: 1909. Growing up in a bygone Midwestern swamp, this young woman is fatherless and neglected by her mother, but she thrives and succeeds in spite of much adversity. She saves for her own college education and works for everything she has. The friend who recommended this book said, “My grandmother gave it to me on my 11th birthday because she read it at same age. We have done a family read-aloud of it this summer.” The author, initials of G.S.P, displayed many of these attributes herself. She was a woman ahead of her time.
7. Genre: Young Adult fantasy series; Published: 1997 – 2007. As the mother of several secondary characters in the series, plus the adoptive mother of the orphaned hero, this woman models a loving marriage of many years; provides a haven for her children and their friends; keeps a tight hand over her large family; and courageously faces the greatest enemy of her time despite her own fears. She’s both a mother and a warrior. But not a very good housekeeper.
- Elizabeth Bennett (Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen)
- Jo March (Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)
- Nellie Bly
- Sara Crewe (A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett)
- Trixie Belden (The Trixie Belden series, Julie Campbell Tatham)
- Gladys Aylward
- Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.