Inspirational Women from Well-Loved Literature


Continuing the celebration of women beyond International Women’s Day, here is a collection of some of the most inspirational female characters, ranging from protagonists of classics who have been loved for centuries, to heroines of more recent works. These female figures are literary trailblazers whose wit, intellect, and courage position them as paragons of defiant and strong femininity worldwide.

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

Pride and Prejudice is a timeless classic by Jane Austen, which has been adored by many since its publication in 1813, and the strong protagonist of the story is just as loveable as the novel itself. In contrast to her younger sisters, Elizabeth Bennet is sensible, level-headed, and kind, but importantly is not afraid to voice her opinions and stand up for what she believes in. Despite risking the financial security of her future, she refuses to marry Mr Collins, not wanting to marry if not for love, which was quite controversial for the era the book was written. Furthermore, she is not deterred by the threats from the prestigious Lady Catherine de Bourgh and marries Mr Darcy regardless, securing the happiness that she deserves. A very early figure of feminism with a strong moral compass, it is obvious why so many admire this ‘obstinate head-strong girl’. 

Josephine March (Little Women)

Much like Elizabeth Bennet, Jo March was well ahead of her time with respect to feminism. She intentionally does not conform to the societal expectations of how a woman should be. Even though she is often described as ‘boyish’, she lives her life in a way that brings her happiness, not caring about what others think of her. She expresses her desire to fight in the Civil War like her father and sells her hair (her ‘one beauty’) to earn money to send to him when he is ill, making a sacrifice none of her sisters would, solely for the benefit of her family.

Elizabeth Bennett is sensible, level-headed, and kind, but importantly is not afraid to voice her opinions

Éowyn (The Lord of the Rings)

In the male-dominated trilogy The Lord of the Rings, Éowyn is undoubtedly an inspirational figure as she is essentially the heroine of the battle in The Return of the King. She is subjected to patriarchal ideas about women and is not allowed to fight, but masquerading as a soldier, she rides into battle regardless. One of the most intimidating creatures is the Lord of the Nazgûl, which legend said no living man could defeat. Yet, Éowyn’s most iconic moment is when she takes off her helmet and kills him, declaring ‘No living man am I!’

Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia)

An innocent child with an adventurous spirit, Lucy Pevensie makes the important discovery of Narnia in the most unexpected place: the back of an old wardrobe. She insists on believing in the magical world, even when her own siblings doubt her, and her unwavering faith eventually helps to save Narnia from the tyrannical rule of the White Witch. She is brave and kind, with a true dedication to helping others, which is symbolised by the healing cordial she receives upon meeting Father Christmas.

Matilda (Matilda)

Growing up with a family who rarely appreciate her, Matilda has a difficult childhood, but throughout the book shows integrity and kindness. Unconventionally for a child, she is fearless of the intimidating adults in her life: she uses pranks to teach her parents a lesson and seeks revenge on Miss Trunchbull on behalf of Miss Honey. Although the telekinesis she develops greatly helps her in the story, it is her love of literature, strong character, and morals that make her truly inspirational.

Matilda has a difficult childhood, but throughout the book shows integrity and kindness

Hermione Granger (the Harry Potter series)

Throughout the Harry Potter series, Hermione is consistently an ‘academic weapon’, and her work ethic is definitely inspirational. However, being part of Gryffindor (not Ravenclaw) shows that her courage overrides her intellect, and we see her bravery flourish throughout this series as she is loyal to protecting Harry and plays a pivotal role in destroying the horcruxes and by extension, Voldemort.

Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games trilogy)

Katniss’ fearless nature is demonstrated immediately in this series during the reaping ceremony, when she volunteers as tribute in the games, risking her life to save her younger sister, Prim. Even after her traumatic experience in the games and the horrific sights she witnesses, Katniss remains a strong character who is proud of her district and not afraid to speak her mind. She continually fights for what she believes in, and it is no wonder that she becomes the ‘Mockingjay’, the national symbol for revolution against the Capitol.

Image credit: Eymery via Wikimedia Commons

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