Happy International Women's Day to each and every one of you.


It is important, today and everyday, for all genders to embrace our differences and help to hold one another up. Today, we focus on the women in our lives and throughout history who deserve admiration.

With that in mind, I thought it'd be an excellent idea to celebrate some of the best female characters that we've been admiring and loving in literature for years.

So, what follows is a list of my personal favourite ladies in literature. I'd love for you to share yours with me too.

First, I want to talk about the brilliant Elizabeth Bennet. Starting with a Jane Austen character feels like the natural way to go. Jane Austen was independent, brave, full of strength and everything I would like to be. Her female characters are given so much life and vibrancy. Elizabeth Bennet is wonderful. She's strong willed, fiercely protective of her family, intelligent, a bit rubbish at playing piano, romantic and argumentative. I love her a lot, and the way that she held back from loving Mr Darcy until he showed himself to be worthy of her is inspirational (he's still not worthy, but c'est la vie). She has such a huge heart, is so fond of her sisters, and is understanding of a mother who is so entirely different to herself.

Another female character who always deserves more attention is Sansa Stark. George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series is filled with strong women, Daenerys, Cersei, Catelyn Stark, Arya; all of them have a different kind of strength and complexity. I'm choosing Sansa above the others today because of her character development. With the series' other female characters, their strength is within them from the very beginning, just dormant, waiting for a chance to blaze. Sansa's builds. She turns from a naive child, desperate to get married to a king, into a pillar of fierce strength. The way that she grows into a woman and finds the ability to stand up for herself and her family is fantastic. Besides, I'm often drawn most to the soft, sweet female characters over the bold, brash ladies (though I really do love them too).

Next up on my list I'm shouting out to my two favourite Harry Potter females (another tough choice to make), Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood. Both incredibly loyal, both very intelligent, and entirely opposite to one another. Luna's intelligence is, I think, in her understanding of people. She often senses and understands things about others, albeit in her own quirky way. She is also an incredibly kind character, and loyal to the end. Her friendship is very important to Harry and his story, and I genuinely just like her very much. Hermione is brilliant, stubborn and difficult and often quite irritating. Harry and Ron would have probably lasted about half a day on their adventures without her. She is also unthinkingly loyal (like Luna), "I'll go with you, Harry," she says, when Harry walks to meet his death. But I think that what is best about Hermione's character is her affect on young girls. Without Hermione, I probably wouldn't love books as I do. Without her, I wouldn't have worked as hard as I did at school. She was an inspiration to me, and as I noticed upon seeing many Hermiones during our World Book Day celebrations yesterday, an inspiration to many other girls who are just finding their feet. Hermione, in all of her different forms and representations, is a force to be reckoned with, and it is spectacular.

Sonmi-451 is one of the many characters in David Mitchell's 'Cloud Atlas'. The story is a complex weaving of different timelines, plots and characters, Fate is a strong theme, the idea that people were meant to meet, and that they will keep meeting in all versions of reality and the future. Sonmi is a clone, built to serve in a strange futuristic restaurant. I've picked her for this list because of her strong will. She is present in many of the timelines and in the primitive, last timeline she is worshipped by the people, like a god. She makes her escape from captivity, and grows from a clone into this incredible character, with the ability to connect with others and learn, who inspires other characters and has a calm inner strength. I love her because she's different from any other character I've read, and different from the other women on this list. Due to her unique start in life, her story is even more of an inspiration, she defied all expectations of her - went against what she was literally built to do to become something much bigger.

Next up on the list is a comic book character. Comic books are as enjoyable to read as books are, and I notice that it is often the gateway for young people - particularly young boys - into a love of reading. They're cool, colourful and fast-paced, and usually get turned into exciting movies. It's important, therefore, that the women in comic books are just as well-written and brilliant as many of the other women in literature. Of course, there are still the dodgy, half filled out female characters in the background of the male hero's stories, but we're not going to start on that today. Instead, I'm going to add Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, to our list of the best ladies in lit. Soon to grace our cinema screens, Capt. Marvel is the female equivalent of Superman. She's unerringly strong, fast, can fly, can do this crazy energy projection thing, and is probably Marvel Comics' best creation (am I biased? of course I am), at least when they finally fleshed her character out a bit.

Heading back to the books, next on our list of excellent female characters is Matilda. Like Hermione, Matilda has been an inspiration to many young girls to embrace their intelligence and grow with it. Matilda reads like it's going out of fashion, and she made it cool. She's also her own little superhero, and we love a girl who saves the day. She uses her whip-smart mind to find a life for herself that she loves. I also have to give an honorable mention to Miss Honey, who falls into that category of kind, soft female characters that I previously mentioned. She's a wonderful teacher, and a great friend to Matilda.

From The Colour Purple, Celie is next on our list. Her story is incredibly sad, and the struggles that she has faced are unimaginable. Despite her lack of education, there is a depth to her that is important in female characters. Like Sansa, we have also chosen Celie because of her character development. She begins the story in such a dark place, haunted by the past that she has been fighting through, and she ends the story happy, and independent, with a confidence in herself that seemed impossible. Her journey to this point is filled with emotion, and as readers, we get a front row seat to this. Reading the story through Celie's eyes makes for an incredible reading experience.

Finally, another Children's book character, Pippi Longstocking. I dressed up as Pippi (full name, Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking) for this year's World Book Day, because I love her. She's funny, feisty and totally independent. I always loved, as a kid, how adventurous she is, and how, like many of the women on the list, she stood her ground and fought for what is right. We love a strong moral compass. Pippi uses her skills as the "strongest girl in the world" to protect her friends and stop people from being cruel. She also has this brilliant self-confidence that comes from being a boisterous kid, and despite her often clumsy, dishevelled appearance she has a great sense of self-worth. Exactly what we should be representing to young readers.

It's so important that we celebrate these characters, and women like them in our lives, and that characters like these keep being written and created. We need soft women! We need smart women! We need women who are a bit rubbish at playing piano! We need female characters with complexity and faults and strength who we can see ourselves in.

So, there's my list, and I'd love it if you'd share with us some of your favourite female characters today.

-by Emma Bilsborough, Sales & Marketing Coordinator

 


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