[blockquote align=”none” author=”Mae West”]Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from.[/blockquote]
March is Women’s History Month. At my library, we’ve been working hard to create displays featuring female authors and historical figures. Continuing along those lines, I thought it would be fun to do a post on fictional women who have inspired me. I’m keeping it strictly focused on women in novels.* So without further ado, here is my top five list of inspirational women in fiction.
Nancy Drew was my idol growing up. I read the originals. I read the cheesy Nancy Drew Casefiles. I read the Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys Super Mysteries, secretly shipping Nancy and Frank. Yes, I even read the short-lived Nancy Drew On Campus. In every version, Nancy is a smart, capable young woman. She not only enjoys unraveling a mystery, but helping people in need. Her number one trait – compassion. She shows it not just to her family and friends, but to complete strangers she meets during her cases. She inspires me to try to be a more compassionate person. Some days I succeed, other days I fail, but I always try. Thank you, Nancy, for your compassion.
Confession time – I didn’t read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice until my mid-twenties. A bit shocking once you realize how much I use to love romance. However, it was the perfect time for me to meet Miss. Elizabeth Bennet. Lizzie is a headstrong, self-assured young woman. I love her confidant demeanor. She knew herself in a way most characters (heck, people) don’t. However, I love more the changes she undergoes during the novel. She grows as an individual, embracing humility and love. She taught me growing as an individual never ends. It was a lesson I desperately needed to learn. Thank you, Lizzie, for teaching me to grow.
I read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables during my twenties too. At the time, I was involved in an abusive relationship. I desperately wished to be fearless, to walk away from such a relationship. And there she was, little Anne Shirley, one of the most fearless characters ever. Anne never backed down from a challenge, though she did learn to choose her battles more wisely during the later novels. She had a fire, a passion for life I greatly admired. Thank you, Anne, for sparking the fire to my own life.
I happened upon Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games trilogy after the release of the third novel. I read them back to back to back. I fell in love with Katniss Everdeen. She was a frightened, disenfranchised young woman struggling to protect her loved ones. She taught me bravery and courage exists side-by-side with fear and pain. She showed me vulnerability is only as strong as the power you give it. Reading this series around the time of my abusive relationship gave me the courage and strength to move past it. I will forever be grateful for her lesson. Thank you, Katniss, for your courage and strength.
Anyone that has read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series can agree on this statement – without a doubt, Ron and Harry would be dead without Hermione Granger. Hermione is such a smart, strong woman. She’s not just book smart, but street smart. She practices what she preaches. Additionally, she holds herself accountable to certain moral principles and ideals. Her strength of character emboldened me to be strong, too. She gave me a clarity and insight into my own principles. Through her, I learned to hold myself accountable. To practice what I preach. Thank you, Hermione, for illustrating the importance of a strong moral code through word as well as deed.
Finally, I want a moment to reflect on this list and myself. I am a white, heterosexual woman. The women on this list are white, heterosexual women. I’m not surprised my particular female heroes fall into this demographic. Additionally, I read all of these books at a time I was developing my personal identity. If I recreate this list in five years, I hope it will contain a more diverse selection of women.
*I did cheat in my cover image by using the actresses, and not the books, associated with the characters. I couldn’t help it, they’ve all done such a great job bringing those character to life!