Library Blog

March Sisters

Sunday, March 14, 2021

In our March 1 newsletter, we asked for readers' favorite literary heroine - whether she wears a cape, runs a business, runs a household, or displays other strengths of character entirely. Here we match some great responses with a few favorites from the staff side to round out your Women's History Month recommended reading!

March is Women's History Month, and Women's History Month = March for our respondents - one Josephine March, that is! Independent Jo got four mentions out of 37 in our survey responses - from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and sequels, naturally. (That's Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig's 2019 film adaptation at left.)

The second-most-mentioned heroines included

  • Charlotte Bronte's virtuous and romantic Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska in the role here)
  • Jane Austen's intelligent and romantic Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle lends us the look)
  • George Eliot's virtuous, intelligent, and romantic Dorothea Brooke (from Middlemarch - that's Juliet Aubrey wearing her sleeves) - and
  • the perhaps too-smart-for-her-own-good Scarlett O'Hara, from Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (shown here: Vivien Leigh).

Two mystery lovers also cited Harriet Vane, female lead of the Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers (start here).

Other Austen or Austen-adjacent names: the titular Emma Woodhouse and Helen Fielding's alter ego Bridget Jones.

We said literary heroine, but we didn't specify fiction. Here's plenty of reading about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who got two shout-outs in the survey. We can also encounter Stacey Abrams in her book Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, Michelle Obama in Becoming, and Vice President Kamala Harris in The Truths We Hold: An American Journey.

Other real-life figures included

On the border between fact and fiction: one reader commends author Eve Babitz's various depictions of herself across her books.

The notorious RBG herself may well have looked up to Portia from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. (There's Ellen Terry in the role.) The classics were also cited for

Favorites we suspect of being childhood role models:

Contemporary readers young and old appreciate Starr Carter, star of Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give, Nnedi Okorafor's "Akata Witch" Sunny Nwazue, and the genderfluid Alex Fierro, from Rick Riordan's Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series.

And who says a heroine has to be human? E.B. White's Charlotte is Some Spider.

Joining in from the last century and this one:

Nicola Griffith's 2013 Hild portrays saint Hilda of Whitby, and N.K. Jemisin's recent Broken Earth Trilogy (The Fifth Season, The Obelisk Gate, and The Stone Sky) tells the saga of Essun. Silvia Morena-Garcia's Mexican Gothic introduces us to Noemi Taboada and Catalina, and we meet the unforgettable Shu Wen in Xinran's Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet.

Didn't see your favorite? Keep the conversation and recommendations coming on Twitter or Instagram - @nysoclib and #WomensHistoryMonth.


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