Who’s your favorite literary heroine?

Who’s your favorite literary heroine?

Because of this conversation, I’ve had the great females of literature on my mind for weeks.

Like so many lifelong readers, I’ve encountered so many spunky girls and amazing women in the pages of good books. So many.

When I was young, I discovered Anne Shirley, Nancy Drew, Emily Starr, Caddie Woodlawn. As I got older, I met new friends (because that’s absolutely how I thought of them): Lucy Pevensie, Meg Murry, Scout Finch, Jo March.

As an adult, I could name hundreds of inspiring (and completely fictional) females I’ve met. Francie Nolan, Elinor Dashwood, Cassandra Mortmain, Dorothea Brooke, Hermione Granger, Jane Eyre, Hannah Coulter, Minerva McGonnigal, Beatrice, Liesel Meminger, Margaret Hale …

My question for you today: who’s your favorite? And why?

Tell us all about it in comments.

(Psst—listen to my podcast conversation about the great women of literature, what makes a heroine, and why they have such staying power in your favorite podcast app or right here on the blog.)

P.S. Beautiful editions of Anne of Green Gables.

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  1. Jo says:

    Two ladies I love from reading are Hannah Fowler (from Hannah Fowler) and Prudence Tremaine (from Georgette Heyer’s The Masqueraders). Both are brave, resourceful, strong yet feminine women in dangerous situations.

  2. Liza says:

    Isi and Enna from Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl (and the whole series). I love both equally. Isi’s journey is one I hope I were strong enough to endure, were I in a similar situation. And I love how her “weaknesses” are not really weakness, but a core part of who she is. Her personality doesn’t change, but she comes into her own place of belonging and her own way of being strong. Enna is such a perfect counterpart-loyal, compassionate, trusting. But she gets caught up in situations bigger than she is able to handle and does terrible things in the name of war. She then goes through her own journey of learning to forgive herself and to be forgiven…and like Isi, her personality doesn’t change, but she becomes a better version of herself.

    I also love Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle. She also goes on a journey and becomes a better version of herself and finds her inner strength (yes, this is a theme in the books I love). I hope that I’m as headstrong as she is when I’m old.

    And Luna Lovegood. *happy sigh* She’s odd, but still intelligent and perceptive of the world around her. Her quirks are endearing and my mood is always a little lighter after reading scenes with her in them.

  3. Jamie says:

    I have to agree with you on Francie Nolan. I feel like she’s the soulmate of so many young woman in their ‘coming of age’ season. I also really loved Ethel William and Maud Fitzherbert in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy – their smarts, wit, and strength in the face of unbelievable odds.

  4. Claire says:

    My favorite literary heroine would have to be Jane Eyre. I loved this book so much and just thought Jane was a woman ahead of her time. I loved her spunk and intelligence and the fact that she was so true to herself. And my favorite line is of course, “Reader, I married him.”

  5. Kim says:

    It’s always been Scarlett O’Hara for me. That girl just kept picking herself up in the face of disaster after disaster. She was the first heroine I saw that realized that she needed to take care of herself, and that she couldn’t rely on a man to take care of her and treat her like she had a brain. Granted, she made some poor choices, but she just kept on going.

    • Raela says:

      I was thinking about saying Scarlett too. She’s got her issues, but she also kicks butt! I think a mix of her and Melanie would be the perfect woman 🙂

  6. Marie says:

    I love Jane Eyre because she is uncompromisingly true to herself, and I love Una Spencer from Ahab’s Wife because she is brave, adventurous, kind, and curious.

  7. Becca says:

    My favorite heroines growing up were Harriet Tubman and Elizabeth Blackwell. As a little girl I was so inspired by these women defying social and racial stigma’s and prejudice to accomplish amazing things.
    I also loved the characters from Little Women (Jo was my favorite), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and Lucy from the Narnia series. So many great literary heroines!

  8. Jamie says:

    I had to come back (after I had smacked my head in disbelief that I had forgotten!) with RAMONA! RAMONA, RAMONA, RAMONA!!! I’m listening to the whole Ramona Quimby series again on audio book with my three kids at breakfast most mornings. It is a completely different experience listening as a parent then reading as a kid. I have so many solidarity moments with Ramona’s parents as they try to embrace their little girl who is so spunky yet also so infuriatingly misunderstood, even though her antics come from a good-heart (at least most of the time!). And then I look at my three kiddos and lightbulbs go off in my head and I almost break down in tears as I’m dishing out breakfast. Ramona has given me a whole new insight in what it means to be a kid, but also what it means to love them, too.

  9. Fiona says:

    Hi Anne, I agree with all of the literary heroines that you have discussed on the podcast – a wonderful topic! Interestingly, something that has been missing from the discussion is all of those English boarding school stories that I loved growing up (and now). Perhaps these were more commonly read in Australia (where I’m from) and the U.K? I wonder if you have other readers/listeners out there who agree. I loved Enid Blyton!

  10. There are so many wonderful, wonderful heroines. I love so many. But my absolute favorite is Jo March. I first read Little Women the summer after my 6th-grade year. I fell in love with it and Jo immediately. In 2015, I set a goal to read through all of Louisa May Alcott’s work. I did read everything that is currently published. And I got to top the reading off with a visit to The Orchard House and other sights in Concord. Little Women is still my favorite, and I plan to start reading it again on November 29 as that is the date of Louisa May Alcott’s birthday.

  11. Mary Kay says:

    I have to agree that Anne Shirley is one of the best. Hermione Granger is also a favorite of mine (so much so that my cat is named Hermione!). But I also have a special place in my heart for Emma Woodhouse. I love how she grows and learns in the story. While her good intentions may be misguided, she tries her best to be a good person.

  12. Bethany!! says:

    So many books with so many characters!!! My favorites are Luna Lovegood: quirky yet wise a true ravenclaw, Hazel Levesque from The Hero’s of Olympus; smart,and amazingly awesome with a super sad backstory that fleshes out her character, and finally Amy, from Little Women; a funny character who is creative and altogether funny.

  13. Amy says:

    Anne – I’m sure this goes without actually typing the recommendation, but have you read Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi? Alice Alexis Queensmeadow is quite the leading young lady. I just read this book and absolutely loved it! A modern day heroine perhaps? Have a great day!

  14. Molly says:

    It is so hard to choose just one favorite heroine. For a modern heroine, I have to go with Hermione Granger and Professor McGonnagal. These are two women who stick to their guns, are logical thinkers, and are given more brains than beauty. For childhood heroines, my favorite picks include Ramona Quimby and Sara Crewe and her little friend. Again, these girls had spunk and strong personalities. I love that Sara kept faith in what she knew was real (her father’s love) and stayed positive even though her situation was anything but positive.

  15. Laura Schwartz says:

    Lisbeth Salander was amazing (Stieg Larson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and sequels)! I also very much enjoyed Lyra Belacqua from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and must say, his less known Sally Lockhart series also had a fantastic female main character (Sally Lockhart herself). Growing up I was a big fan of nosy Miss Marple as well as Laura Ingalls.

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