What makes female characters literary heroines? For me, these are females who instilled in me a sense of power in my gender. These women, most of whom are positioned in times of absolute masculine authority, defy conventions. They set out to achieve their heart’s desires in spite of everything thrown at them.
I can’t remember when I learned to read, but I know it was very early. I have been enamored with reading my entire conscious life. My favorite books feature strong female main characters. So, narrowing down my top five favorite literary heroines was a challenge. I could switch these out so many others like Anne Shirley, Feyre Archeron, Elizabeth Bennett, Offred, Annabeth Chase, I could go on and on…
The List of Literary Heroines
But here, in no particular order exactly, are my top five favorite literary heroines. Also included are the books they are featured in and the writers who gave them life (dominant females in their own right).
Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Jo March was my childhood hero. She was independent, stubborn, but loveable, and a writer. In fact, it was my introduction to Jo March that inspired me to want to be a professional author and to start writing my own stories. I loved the way she dreamed and then pursued her dreams, rejecting the social constructs of her time. Little Women was a book I reread over ten times throughout my life. I bought multiple editions of it, though my favorite is an old copy my aunt gave me before she passed away.
Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prarie Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder tells the story of her childhood growing up on a homestead. She tells stories of traveling west, meeting colorful characters, meeting her husband, and eventually becoming a teacher and starting a family. Of course, Wilder took some artistic license with her memories for entertainment value but her heroine, Laura Ingalls, still makes the list. She was mouthy and adventurous though she eventually settled down as was expected of a woman of her time. The impressive part of her story is the transition of her portrayal in her semi-biographical books to her real-life role as a famous, beloved children’s author. I can remember doing all of my book reports in elementary school over her, and it was a series I reread many times.
Hermoine Granger from Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I don’t think anyone my age or younger wouldn’t have Hermoine Granger on their list of favorite literary heroines. There are many reasons for that, the first being that Hermoine is not the main character of the series, but she is smarter and more talented than the main character. Right to the end. The Brightest Witch of Our Time. Hermoine’s friendship with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley starts off rocky. They do not take to her as quickly as they do to each other, treating her like an annoyance. But Hermoine proves to be an invaluable resource, as a friend, schoolmate, partner-in-crime, and finally a spouse. Hermoine owns her power, doesn’t try to dumb herself down or dim her shine and I think that was so needed for girls, in the 90s and today.
Claire Fraiser from Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
Claire Fraiser is a recent favorite of mine. I started listening to the Outlander series on audiobook a little over a year ago. Claire is a former WWII nurse, so right off the bat we know she has been through something incredible. But the story opens at the close of the War, Claire and her husband are attempting a second honeymoon. They are trying to reconnect after eight years apart; he was a soldier. She is ripped from her world and thrown in 18th-century Scotland where she meets and is subsequently married to Jamie Fraiser. Claire falls in love with him, and when an opportunity presents itself to return to her own time, she stays. She wholly owns herself and is confident in her intelligence and sensuality.
Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Despite the latest terrible movie adaptation of one of my favorite novels of all time, Jane Eyre is a complicated woman to keep down. An orphan for much of her life, she had to learn quickly that to survive she had to take matters into her own hands. That is what she does when she travels to Thornfield Hall and encounters the mysterious and intimidating Mr. Rochester. She then proceeds to marry him (with some stuff in between). Again, here is a woman born in a time when they were more likely to be sold off in marriage. Jane Eyre overcomes her environment, her position as a poor orphan and a governess, and achieves her heart’s desire.
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