Biblio File, Women's History Month
Our Favorite Female Characters
We asked our staff about their favorite female characters. Here are some they highly recommend for kids, teens and adults alike.
Hands down my favorite female character of all time is Jo March from Little Women. She wasn't always comfortable in her own skin but she owned it, she sent mixed signals to poor Teddy, she could be petty and mean but she was always true to herself. She was fierce and ready to take on the 19th century world. 150 years later, the girl that Louisa May Alcott created is still someone that can inspire 21st century girls. —Ann Rouyer, Mulberry Street
In children's books, you have to honor the pantheon: my favorite female characters were Harriet the Spy and Sheila the Great. You have to get in a little trouble and be maybe just a little obnoxious to be fun. But for a contemporary addition, I adore the bravery, chutzpah, cleverness, and ralateable faults of Princess Solveig in Icefall and Mirka in Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword. These both have an element of introducing you to another culture as well: Ancient Vikings (with an element of myth) and Orthodox Judaism (with trolls), respectively.
For adult books, the female character I'm enjoying at the moment is Mary Russell from the series that begins The Beekeepers Apprentice. Young, smart (and smart-mouthed), bumping up against gender and class stereotypes of her time, and learning from the venerable older Sherlock Holmes, you can't always trust her to tell you everything... which makes for fun reading. —Jill Rothstein, Andrew Heiskell
I will go with two girls from YA novels, Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas for her cunning and willingness to fight for what she believes. The second is June from Marie Lu's YA series Legend. June is a brilliant young military prodigy with a sensitive side. —Lillian Calix, Hamilton Grange
My all time favorite female character is Margaret, from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I read it at age 11 and it really surprised me that perhaps I wasn't the only girl on the planet who was totally confused by not only growing up, but by the idea of a God and if he or she would lend me a hand if I asked fervently enough. —Maura Muller, Volunteer’s Office
"Dear God, I am fourteen years old. I am I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me." I deeply admire Celie from Walker's The Color Purple for her strong instinct for survival, unwavering faith and unconditional ability to love. —Miriam Tuliao, Selection Team
My vote goes to Bellis Coldwine from China Miéville's The Scar, a cunning librarian in the pirate city of Aramada. —Judd Karlman, City Island
I love Mrs. Madrigal in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series! I admire her wisdom, tolerance, and ability to nurture people and relationships, qualities that make her everyone's favorite San Francisco landlady. —Elizabeth Waters, Mid-Manhattan
Growing up, I loved Laura Ingalls of the Little House series. Laura inspired me to be adventurous, to go outside, and to experience the world! She also just happens to live in nostalgia for me —my mom read the series to me twice, and Laura always represents youth and innocence (mine and hers!).
In adult fiction, one of my favorite characters is Agnes DeWitt/Sister Cecilia/Father Damien Modeste, a woman-turned-nun-turned-priest from Louise Erdrich's The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. Her struggle to find her true self within her many personas and her place in the Ojibwe community, as well as her dedication to that very community, is more than admirable...perhaps awe-inspiring. The dedication, sweetness, sincerity, and compassion I found in her character sticks with me as a constant reminder of grace and purpose. —Alexandria Abenshon, Countee Cullen
Jehane bet Ishak from Guy Gavriel Kay's The Lions of Al-Rassan is as fresh in my mind as the day I read the book. Warring religious factions, father issues, and a love triangle involving the two most powerful men in the Al-Rassan peninsula. A great heroine/villainess combination can be found in Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Dart, first in a trilogy and a doorstop book with plenty of political intrigue, bloodshed and erotica. —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil
I remember enjoying the character of Cayce Pollard in William Gibson's Pattern Recognition. She transverses the worlds of marketing, political intrigue, digital, and real world influence with relative ease. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market
Modesta, in Goliarda Sapienza's The Art of Joy is a favorite female character of mine because she is shocking and captivating. Her life begins on January 1, 1900 and is bright, violent and sensual through family relations and the heavy politics of 20th century Italy. There is an autobiographical flow to the fiction, which means the author must have been a pretty amazing woman herself. —Jessica Cline, Mid-Manhattan
Some of my favorite female characters are the ones in the margins who get second chances at a rich literary life. For example, I am fascinated by the mysterious figure of Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre—the archetypal madwoman in the attic. I like her best in Jean Rhys' re-imagination of Bertha (nee Antoinette) in Wide Sargasso Sea. This story, set primarily in the Caribbean, tells the reader all about how she got locked up in that dreary British attic, and paints a vivid (and tragic) portrait of a romantic, passionate young woman. In the same vein, check out Maryse Conde's I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. Tituba, the early American slave of Salem Witch Trial fame, finally gets to tell her story—it's another one filled with enough magic, vigor, and vivaciousness to outweigh the hardship she encounters. —Nancy Aravecz, Mid-Manhattan