Top Five Literary Heroines: International Women’s Day

Katie Zepf ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

International Women’s Day, a holiday that celebrates the achievements of women of all nationalities, ethnicities, classes, and cultures, was celebrated this month. It is a day to reflect on the obstacles women have had to overcome, and the battles they must still win in order to reach true gender equality.

One battle that has yet to be won for women is the lack of strong female characters in books. There is an underwhelming amount of female characters who possess qualities that are valued in heroes, such as independence, strength, intelligence, and bravery. It is important to place emphasis on those stories with compelling female characters who prove women can be brilliant, brave, and most importantly, beloved by all the readers they inspire.

5. Jane Eyre – Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre. Source: Penguin Classics


Jane Eyre is truly one of literature’s first strong female characters. She refuses to allow Mr. Rochester control her. She will not conform to his wishes simply because of societal expectations. When she discovers that he was disrespecting her, she stands strong and leaves him, despite the trouble that follows her. She overcomes a painful and constricting childhood to become a woman confident enough to endure the pressures of a heavily patriarchal world.

4. Eowyn – The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein

The Fellowship of the Ring. Source: HarperCollins

In most fantasy novels, women are portrayed as the stereotypical “damsel in distress.” Men fight in battle while women cry with the children. Eowyn is a relief from that trope. She is both beautiful and fierce. The only thing better than her wit is her swordplay. Not only does she defend herself, she saves the lives of others and kills one of the most evil creatures in all of Middle Earth. Her line, “But no living man am I!” as she plunges her sword into her foe, remains one of these best moments in female character history.

3. Nancy Drew – The Nancy Drew Series, by Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock. Source: Simon & Schuster

Nancy Drew, teenage detective, has been a childhood favorite for decades. She is one of the first role models many young girls have. Nancy is smart, gutsy, and independent. Although she is described as attractive, her stories are decidedly against the idea of the dumb, pretty girl. She is one of the only female characters for young girls that makes having brains appealing. Her good nature and perseverance in the face of a challenge are characteristics that women of all ages admire.

2. Hermione Granger – The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Source: Scholastic

Hermione Granger is a favorite among millions for her high intelligence and memorable personality. She manages to stand out in a sea of powerful male characters. She proves to many young girls that they should be proud to be hardworking and studious; anyone who says otherwise doesn’t deserve her attention. She never once changes who she is. Even though Harry Potter is the one saving everyone in the end, she helps and saves the people she cares about on a daily basis. Everyone knows Harry wouldn’t have gotten very far without help from the girl everyone wants to be.

1. Daenerys Targaryen – A Song of Ice and Fire Series, by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones. Source: Bantam Spectra

Daenerys Stormborn, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Queen, etc. No matter what you call her, she is the most powerful character in this series. She has gone from a weak little girl who has endured the most horrible things, to a strong woman who has overcome every obstacle life has thrown at her. She has proven more than competent in every area of her life. There has never been a fantasy female character so compelling, determined, or forceful. It is clear who should rule the Iron throne— and it is no man.


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