Literature is filled with the stories of many women, whether as damsels in distress or as strong, independent heroines — but there are a few who we think are worth looking up to. Check out our list of #LiteraryGoals and see if any of your personal favorites are there!
From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
With quick wit and strong will, Elizabeth Bennet has captured the hearts not only of the equally stubborn Mr. Darcy, but also of readers throughout the centuries. She was the kind of woman who stands her ground and speaks her mind, even if it’s not what is expected of a lady. But underneath this hard, protective shell is a heart that is kind and loving, loyal and true – especially to herself.
From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
We all love the March girls — Jo, especially — but let’s take a moment to recognize Marmie. She raised four amazing and honorable daughters by herself (for the most part) and cultivated a loving home environment despite her limited resources.
From Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo
Trese is on this list not because she fights aswangs, tikbalangs, and other creatures of the Underworld. That’s cool —but what’s even cooler is that Alexandra understands the delicate balance that must be maintained in a world where different people of different races with different needs live. Trese doesn’t just seek the short-term victory, she works towards the long-term harmony where everyone is safe and free.
From the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
This quirky Ravenclaw may seem strange at first sight, but underneath the turnip earrings and funky glasses is a strong and loyal heart. What sets Luna apart from the other girls at Hogwarts—apart from her wild taste in fashion—is her courage, to stand up for friends, to believe when no one else does, to be unapologetically true to herself.
Princess Diana of Themyscira
From Wonder Woman of DC Comics
Aside from being an incredibly strong and skilled warrior, this Amazonian demigoddess has, for years, represented female power in a world dominated by men — and until now, after many costume changes and origin stories, she continues to do so. Though for a time she was the only female member of the Justice League, this didn’t stop her from fighting on to uphold the good. But she is also a lover of peace, always choosing diplomacy over violence whenever she can.
From Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
“I’ll never be hungry again,” Scarlett vows to herself in the aftermath of the US Civil War. Scarlett’s motivations aren’t always the purest (she holds very racists beliefs, for one) but her survival instincts and strong will to chart her own future are certainly admirable.
Brienne of Tarth
From The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Tall, strong, and aggressive, Brienne does not fit the mold of the ideal noble woman of her world. She suffers the pain of her being different and yet, she still continues to make her own path. Brienne holds herself and others to very high standards of loyalty and honor. The world would be a better place if there were more women like Brienne running it.
From The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Yes, we’re all jealous of Lucy because she got to live in Narnia, know Aslan, and have dryads and talking animals for friends. But more than the extraordinary circumstances she found herself in, we envy Lucy’s unwavering faith in people and in goodness. We all wish we can that be pure of heart.
From Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
There is a long tradition of literary orphans capturing generations of readers’ hearts and Anne Shirley has firmly earned her place in this pantheon. As Anne got into hilarious mix-ups, let her temper get the better of her, and navigated her way into adulthood — she made us feel better about our own blunders and boo-boos. The girl from Prince Edward Island also showed us it was possible to be all grown up and yet keep your imagination and romantic ideals intact.
From The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
Contrary to the first word associations you make when you hear her name, Death is not at all gloomy and melancholy. Because she understands that all life, all stories, all worlds must end someday, she treasures moments and people the way one savors a beautiful sunset. She gives us the big-picture perspective we often lose in the flurry of the everyday — an outlook we can try to hold on to while we live and breathe.
From The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
We all feel inadequate and mediocre sometimes. We all feel that we have to earn our mothers’ approval. June reminds us that this is okay, this is normal. And she also reminds us that, at the end of the day, having the “best quality heart” is what we should aim for.
From the Mary Poppins series by P.L. Travers
She’s practically perfect in every way. Enough said.
From the Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
We can only imagine how tough living life on the run amidst an intergalactic war is. As if that’s not challenging enough, Alana is also a young mother having to constantly make decisions for her family’s safety at every turn. Getting to know Saga’s Alana and all her complexities helps unshackles us from the burden of expectation of what a women should be.
From The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Her clothes and fabulous sense of style—even as an exile—should be enough to get her included in this list. But more than we want to wear her outfits, we want to be like her because Effie was able to step out of her comfort zone, expand her worldview, and fight for the rights of others. Effie showed us one needn’t be on the frontlines to make a difference.
From The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
There are only a handful of female characters in Middle Earth but Eowyn is our favorite. She is mortal (so we relate better with her) and she feels deeply the limitations of being a woman in a world of men, elves, and orcs. Despite expectations, Eowyn goes to battle and risks her life because she wants to be part of something bigger than herself. When she kills the Witch-king of Angmar and screams, “I am no man!,” we are all there with her.
From the Earthsea series by Ursula K. Le Guin
Tenar starts out weak, helpless in her own story, slave to the Nameless Ones. But what makes her someone to aspire being is how she was able to overcome the role set for her. It was a long journey—out of the darkness, of what’s expected of her—but in the end she frees herself from this life-long bondage. “You are free, Tenar. You were taught to be a slave, but you have broken free.”
Who are your female literary goals? Share it with us in the comments!
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