WSIRN Ep 53: The best of literary heroines with Jenny Williams

I can’t think of a better way to close out the Reading For A Lifetime week than with today’s guest. I was already excited to talk with Jenny Williams, and then our actual conversation just blew me away.

Jenny is a true kindred spirit, and when you listen you’ll see why that description is so completely perfect for her. She illustrates beloved literary heroines for a living in her shop, Carrot Top Paper Shop, and yes, that’s totally an Anne of Green Gables reference. In this episode, we talk all about why we love our literary heroines of literature so. (Think Anne, Elizabeth, Jane, Hermione…) We wrestle with what makes for a modern heroine. And of course, we talk about our favorite books, and what we’re reading now. This is such a fun topic, and it’s also an important and timely one. I think you’re gonna love it.

What Should I Read Next #53: The best of literary heroines with Jenny Williams

Give Carrot Top Paper Shop a look-see, and follow the store on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. To check out what Jenny Williams is up to the rest of the time, follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Goodreads!

(psssst — interested in getting a heroine print of your own? Join Jenny’s “Kindred Spirit Club” to claim a free gift with your first purchase of $15 or more!)

Books discussed in this episode: 

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Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomerey
Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomerey
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
The Princess & The Goblin, by George MacDonald
• Stories for Children, by Oscar Wilde
Crime & Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Til We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, by Terry Ryan
The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

Authors also mentioned in this episode:
• Laura Ingalls Wilder
• Jane Austen

What Should I Read Next #53: The best of literary heroines with Jenny Williams

Alright, now it’s time to gush about YOUR favorite literary heroines down in the comments. 😉 


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  1. Louise says:

    I love the pondering on what makes a heroine, what makes one female protagonist stand out as a true heroine. Listening to you talk about truth and honesty, I realized yeah, it comes down to integrity. Not being perfect, but placing your value in something, knowing it, and holding fast to it. Jane Eyre refusing to compromise her beliefs even for something she desires above all else, because to do otherwise would mean becoming less than who she is. Anne Shirley’s commitment to spreading beauty and her steadfast pursuit of that in the face of all the grim sordidness of her early life. Elizabeth Bennet, after recognizing her own prejudices, unflinchingly confronting them and doing something about them, rather than covering them up or ignoring them. Not to “get the guy,” but to be the kind of person she values. I could go on and on! Jo March, when she realizes she is betraying–not another person–but her writing and her own self when she uses that writing for anything less than simple truth and goodness.

    For my own favorite heroines, in addition to Anne, Jo, Jane, etc, I would have to say Persuasion’s Anne Elliot, for her quiet steadfastness; Lord of the Rings’ Eowyn, for her valor and her choosing of life instead of death at the end of the tale; Princess Eilonwy of the Prydain series, for her utter refusal to change who she is for anyone but her own self (and, let’s face it, for her sass); and Harriet Vane from the Lord Peter Wimsey books, who to me is the ultimate example of integrity.

    (Can you tell I really love this topic?)

  2. Breanne says:

    1. I can’t believe this comment form hasn’t exploded with literary heroines, what a fantastic podcast topic!
    2. As the mother of two daughters, I am so grateful for lists like this and books to inspire me and my girls.
    3. I have been on the hunt for some beautiful, literary inspired art for my daughters’ room. Jenny’s art is exactly what I want, I love who she included and can’t wait to place my order.
    4. Ramona, Hermione, Ginny Weasley, Anne, Emily (of New Moon), Caddie Woodlawn, Sara Crewe, Jo March, Jane Eyre…are some of my favourites off the top of my head. Great episode.

    • Jamie says:

      “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.” (thanks to goodreads for the help). 🙂

  3. Sarah Troy says:

    I’d love to see some female literary heroines of color. A couple that immediately leap to mind are Mina Smiths (from Come a Stranger by Cynthia Voigt) and Cassie Logan (from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor). Oh, and for something more contemporary, Rue (from Hunger Games).

  4. Dorothy says:

    I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful series. I listened to each one as soon as I got up for the day. As a music teacher who LOVES books, I am privileged to teach a fourth grade reading group three times a week and am so inspired by my student’s recommendations. In addition, my daughter is 7 and is really starting to love “chapter books.”In the past I have stayed away from reading books specifically for children because I felt like there were so many “adult” books to read. But now that I have two reasons to be more familiar with literature for younger readers, I have embraced this genre. I recently read “Wonder,” “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, “Chasing Vermeer,” and “The Penderwicks.” I have loved them all. My TBR list has grown tremendously since these podcasts! Thank you.

  5. Sheryl Esau says:

    I love this podcast and have recommended it to so many friends, but I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed that my favorite heroine growing up didn’t even get an honorable mention! What about Nancy Drew? They were the only books I couldn’t put down growing up. Maybe I’m showing my age or I was in competition with my brothers who were reading the Hardy Boys books, but I had to mention my childhood favorite heroine. Thanks for a great blog and podcast!

  6. Susan E says:

    I loved the whole children’s podcast week but Jenny Williams was definitely my favorite because I resonated with so many of her picks. In fact, it inspired me to write a list of the books I remember reading as a child (in the 70’s as I’m in my early 50’s now). I discovered that in the list of 30+ books, none are written by men or have male heroes or protagonists. I guess it’s now no surprise to me that I chose to go to a women’s college or that I now read books about Harriet Tubman, Margaret E. Knight, Sarah Breedlove Walker, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mother Theresa and Amelia Earhart to both my son and daughter.

    I thought my TBR list was endless after listening to What Should I Read and reading MMD but now I realize my kids’ lists are equally as long.

    Thanks Anne & Jenny.

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