A Celebration of Female Characters
In celebration of International Women’s Day, the team at Truth Bee Told compiled a list of some of our favourite female characters to grace our pages and screens. The women on this list (which is by no means exhaustive, as we limited it to five picks per person) are smart, strong, vulnerable, capable, emotional, caring, determined, nerdy, and full of heart; and each and every one of them are inspirations in their own way.
Without further ado, and in no particular order:
Amy Santiago (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Picked by Sam
In the beginning, Amy Santiago used to annoy me...and then I realized she was me (right down to the absurd excitement at the prospect of a math problem). Amy can be a little overbearing with her constant need to impress her boss, but she’s also one of the best detectives in the Nine-Nine, incredibly intelligent with a goal of becoming the youngest captain in NYPD history. Amy is highly competitive, neurotic, and organized, with an equal love of field and desk work. Her many quirks (from her love of lamination to her uncanny ability to read lips) are often lightly poked fun at by the rest of the squad, but they are also what makes her truly unique and what the squad (and the audience!) comes to love most about her.
Anissa Pierce (Black Lightning)
Picked by April
It seems only fitting that Anissa Pierce winds up on my list, as I spent the weeks leading up to the premiere of Black Lightning most excited to see her character shine on my screen—and shine she has. Anissa breaks barriers left and right (sometimes literally) as a black, bulletproof, lesbian med student who is openly out, with a kind and accepting family and who isn’t afraid to vocally and physically defend those she loves. Did I forget to mention, she’s got great style? Anissa’s fashion sense is always on point and I want 90% of her outfits.
Annabeth Chase (Percy Jackson)
Picked by Abby
When I think about the books that shaped me, I often think about Percy Jackson and my experience with those books would not have been the same without Annabeth Chase. She’s such a smart and loyal character who guards her heart due to past betrayals and it was something to be able to to grow up reading about her and her journey. Annabeth showed me that intelligence is equal in power to things like controlling the sea or sky, and that had profound impact on my ability to embrace my intelligence and to also embrace my heart.
Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables)
Picked by Gina
Anne Shirley impacted my childhood dramatically. She is the human form of never letting your circumstances define you. An abused orphan sent from foster home to foster home just to be free labor, and then she is sent to a family that had asked for a boy and she is at first rejected again. But she kept believing she was worth more than she had always been told. She is fiery and determined. She’s not afraid of looking smarter than the boys around her. She is brilliant and sensitive and romantic and strong all at once.
Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Picked by Sarah
Buffy Summers is a character I spent my adolescence years admiring the crap out of. She was just a girl when her whole life got turned upside down. Turns out she’s the Vampire Slayer: one girl in all the world chosen to fight the forces of darkness in her small southern California town that was also a hellmouth. She loved and lost greatly. She died twice and came back stronger. “She saved the world. A lot.” Most of all, she had a great team standing strong behind her. It never made her look weak when she needed to look for them to help. Team work makes the dream work!
Clarke Griffin (The 100)
Picked by Jessie
Proud, headstrong, and a great leader, Clarke is one of the de facto leaders of The 100. Battling through loss, heartbreak, and actual battles, Clarke manages to climb back up to the top in order to try and find the best solutions for her people. Clarke is one of the first bisexual leads on television, which automatically puts her near the top in my book. Not only that, though; she’s good bisexual representation (to me, at least). She’s loved and lost, she’s failed, she’s won, and above all, she’s a young woman fighting for what she believes is right. Her conviction and passion are part of why I love her, and her relationships with others around her (in particular her co-leadership with Bellamy) make Clarke one of the most engaging characters on the show.
Cordelia Chase (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel)
Picked by Sarah
I can’t mention Buffy without mentioning Cordelia! Cordelia Chase started out as your typical SoCal mean girl prom queen, but Cordy was quick to learn and grow once the dark forces started taking over her small town. You really saw her grow into an incredible young woman once she made the move to Los Angeles and starting working with Angel (the vampire with a soul) at Angel Investigations. When a dear friend gave his life during a fight, he passed on his ability to see the future to Cordelia, along with the painful headaches that came with them. It was a whole new responsibility, but Cordy was more than willing to “help the helpless” with her newfound gift. While the ending of her story didn’t do the character justice at all, my love and admiration for Cordelia Chase runs deep.
Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)
Picked by Gina
I know nothing of Wonder Woman besides the film version that I saw last year. But I openly wept in the theater several times. It was like watching a fictional version of me (and any girl) losing their naive safe view of the world and being plunged into the darkness of messy reality. But Diana Prince knows who she is and the power she holds. She is innocence and fire all at once. She loves furiously and holds no preconceived ideas of what makes one person worth more or less than another. She is both a warrior and a soft woman. And she doesn’t see either of those traits as weaker than the other.
Eliza Bennett (Pride & Prejudice)
Picked by Gina
I first read Pride & Prejudice after watching the 2005 film when I was a teen. Lizzie Bennett is sharp and independent. She protects her family at all costs, she’s passionate and kind. Not easily wooed or won, but she is constant and affirming with her love when she decides to trust and believe in the love she is given.
Emma Swan (Once Upon a Time)
Picked by Jessie, Abby
Jessie: Originally the main character of ABC’s Once Upon a Time (and now living her happy ending off-screen), Emma grew up an orphan in the foster system. On her 28th birthday, the son she gave up for adoption finds her and tells her that fairy tales are real. She is the Savior of Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest after the Evil Queen casts a curse over the realm. Throughout the seasons, Emma learns who her family is, finds her true love, defeats villains, and discovers herself.
Emma begins the show strong and badass, but we soon learn that she’s guarded because of her painful past. As the show goes on, we see Emma learn to love (in all capacities) as she bonds with her son Henry, the people of Storybrooke, her fairytale parents, and even finding true love in the arms of a pirate. Emma, to me, is the epitome of strength and vulnerability, of finding the balance between independence and allowing yourself to love. Emma’s relationships allow her to blossom, but she is never confined by them. She was one of the most human characters on television, in a show about magic and fairy tales.
Abby: I love Emma because she shows that hope is a journey, that it’s not easy to have hope and that loves worth fighting for. She shows that even in a world where magic doesn’t exist, that magic comes from the connections we form with one another.
Egwene al’Vere (Wheel of Time series)
Picked by Sam
Egwene starts out as a love interest/side character in someone else’s story but quickly grows into an incredible heroine. She’s smart, stubborn, strong, and eager: instead of shying away from her prophesied future as so many other characters do in this series, she rushes into it headlong. When no one else believes in her, she believes in herself more than enough to make up the difference. In a fantasy series packed with wonderful women, Egwene stands out from the pack. Egwene is not the hero the story chose at the beginning; she’s the girl who became a hero through her own pure heart and strength of will and made the story her own.
Picked by Sarah
Guinevere, or Gwen as she was so often called, started as servant to the Lady Morgana in Season 1 of Merlin. Her importance quickly grew as she and Prince Arthur Pendragon got to know each other more and more. The prince always put on a cocky facade, but Gwen was quick to always put him in his place and remind him of who he really is. Gwen is one of my favorite female characters because she is so pure of heart: she wants what’s best for Camelot, especially when she and Arthur marry and she becomes queen. The visual of Queen Guinevere after Leon makes the announcement that “The king is dead. Long live the queen!” is something that I’ll never get over. She’s hurting so much, but she has to be strong. She has Camelot to run and take care of. Her people come first. The final season of Merlin left a lot to be desired, especially as far as her character is concerned, but Gwen will always hold a special place in my heart because of how strong hers is.
Éponine Thénardier (Les Misérables)
Picked by Alyssa
Éponine Thénardier was created by Victor Hugo in his 1862 novel Les Misérables, and has since come to life in theatre and film adaptations in recent years. She is often compared to Cosette, another worthy female character, but Eponine’s story is often overlooked or dismissed. Eponine was born into a family of notorious criminals, and could very well have descended into that life. However, we see her come into her own as she grows, making her own way in the world and becoming her own person, independent from the criminal actions of her parents. She is brave and scrappy, and is much more than just a girl who died at the barricades for love. I'll leave you with a quote from the book: "I'm not the daughter of a dog, since I'm the daughter of a wolf. There are six of you, what matters that to me? You are men. Well, I'm a woman. You don't frighten me."
Hermione Granger (Harry Potter)
Picked by Jessie, Abby, Alyssa
Jessie: Hermione is described as “the brightest witch of her age”. She is smart, compassionate, and fiercely protective of her friends and family. Through the books and films, Hermione grows into a capable, funny, and amazing woman that continues to inspire young girls. It’s hard not to love Hermione. She’s an amazing character, and many other characters would be dead a hundred times over if not for her. As a bookworm outcast in school myself, I clung to Hermione like a lifeline, and her incredible bond with Harry and Ron made me feel like maybe I wouldn’t be alone forever. Her sharp wit and intelligence genuinely helped me strive to be better in school, to where I eventually graduated college magna cum laude. My whole life, Hermione has inspired me to embrace my intelligence, my strength, my weaknesses, and learn from them. Her development throughout the series is beautiful and natural, and she is a character that will forever have a lasting impact on generation after generation. As long as Harry Potter exists, Hermione will flourish, and I think she deserves nothing less.
Abby: I actually wrote about Hermione for my personal statement for college, that’s how much she has influenced me. I remember reading Harry Potter for the first time the summer before second grade and once I started school it felt like I had a voice in my head that sounded like Hermione telling me speak whenever I felt afraid or embarrassed. She’s a key reason why I read as much as I do and why I always participate in class because I learned from her that being intelligent and that sharing that knowledge is a sign of strength.
Alyssa: It's no surprise that Hermione Granger made multiple lists. She's arguably one of the most influential female characters of our generation, allowing girls the freedom to be both smart and rebellious at the same time. Hermione is also perpetually fighting for the underdog; a passion likely taken from the fact that she is a muggleborn. She is seen as "less than" by many of her fellow witches and wizards and is even targeted by Voldemort's Death Eater army in the last book of the series. In a time when "mudbloods" are having their wands confiscated and fleeing the country, she chooses to stay and join the resistance. We've all seen the signs at the women's marches around the world: if it wasn't for Hermione, Harry would have died in book one. Hermione teaches us all that by educating ourselves and fighting with conviction, we can make a lasting change in the world.
Isabelle Lightwood (Shadowhunters, The Mortal Instruments)
Picked by Jessie
Of the two Lightwood siblings, Isabelle is quicker both in battle and in wit. Descended from one of the oldest and highly respected Shadowhunters families, Isabelle has a lot to live up to, and she truly does. Her skills, intelligence, and beauty make her one of the most formidable young Shadowhunters of her age. Both TV and book versions of Isabelle are arguably the best characters in their respective series, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a way to prove me wrong. Izzy is strong, hilarious, and incredibly smart. Her skills saved the Shadowhunter gang and the Downworlders numerous times. TV-Isabelle has suffered through addiction and withdrawals, found and lost relationships, lost her little brother - and through it all, she remained a beacon for others in her life, even when she was down. She loves fiercely, and her protective streak has saved the Shadowhunters countless times. Book-Isabelle, while more composed, similarly suffers at the hands of fate (and Downworlders, and other Shadowhunters) time and time again. Even when she breaks, she finds a way to climb out to stand by her fellow teammates and friends. With everything Isabelle goes through, I truly admire her tenacity and strength in the face of darkness.
Jane Villanueva (Jane The Virgin)
Picked by Sam
At the beginning of the series, Jane is an aspiring writer-turned-teaching student who is ready to settle down with her long-time boyfriend—until she is accidentally inseminated with another man’s sperm. Jane portrays a lot of traits that are typically seen as weak: she’s emotional, she’s feminine, she wears her heart on her sleeve, she gets caught up in romance and fantasy. But in Jane, these traits are her strength instead of her weakness. She loves deeply and passionately, and family is of the utmost importance; she’s driven, sometimes too serious, and prone to fantastical daydreams. Jane’s journey as a writer is something that especially resonates with me, as she fights through writer’s block and grief to get her book on the shelf—only to wonder what comes next.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games)
Picked by Gina
When I was introduced to this ferocious and protective girl I was captivated by her strength and her vulnerable places. Her longing for love and safety. The deep pitted sadness and fear she held at bay to do what needed to be done. Her constant fight for justice for the oppressed and her deep well of love for her family and friends that made her rage at anything that threatened them. She was eventually broken but not for long and in the brokenness she still fought the darkness.
Michonne (The Walking Dead)
Picked by April
Michonne is the best thing about The Walking Dead (both franchises). I say this with no regret. She has a katana, need I say more?! She suffered a lot of loss, but unlike in the comics, Michonne is given the opportunity to grow and build relationships with her fellow survivors. She’s become a surrogate mom to Rick’s children and she’s just…all around, what a great female character in a post-apocalyptic world looks like!
Nakia (Black Panther)
Picked by April
OK, I know my list is mostly made up of the ladies of Black Panther (I’m including Danai here even though I listed Michonne), but can you blame me? These ladies blew it out of the water and Nakia was outstanding. A spy from the Wakandan River Tribe, she was strong enough to breakup with T’challa (whom she loved) when her desires didn’t fit into their relationship, saved a piece of the heart-shaped herb (which was responsible for saving T’challa and later Wakanda), protected Queen Mother Ramonda and Shuri in the immediate aftermath of Eric’s ascent to the throne AND had the original idea to utilize Wakanda’s resources to help EVERYONE (even though people focus a lot of the attention for this on Eric), and she still got her man at the end of the film. Is there anything this Power Girl can’t do? I doubt it.
Olivia Benson (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)
Picked by Sarah
Olivia Benson is the epitome of a strong female character to me. We saw her go from Detective all the way up to where she is now at Lieutenant. She’s emotional, strong-willed, determined, and, at times, stubborn. She is determined to bring rapists, pedophiles, murders, et cetera to justice, no matter the cost (especially to her personal relationships). She had always put her career first, while desperately yearning for a family of her own. Well, she’s finally getting what she deserves with her adoptive son, Noah, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
Princess Leia Organa (Star Wars)
Picked by Abby, Gina
Abby: Leia is one of my favorite female characters because she was the first one to really show that it is what you do with power that matters, that rage and hope often go hand and hand, and that being in love is a strength.
Gina: As far back as I can remember, Princess Leia has been a part of me. She is the first character outside of animated characters that I wanted to be. She is fearless, confident, hotheaded, bossy, compassionate—all the characteristics fiction has used to make heroic and flawed male characters. A pure icon.
Raven Reyes (The 100)
Picked by Sam, Abby, Alyssa
Sam: Raven Reyes is everything I want to be. She’s brilliant—a zero-G mechanic with additional talents in engineering and chemistry—determined, sassy, and so, so strong. Without her, everyone else on the show would have been dead several times over, and yet she rarely gets recognized for her efforts. Raven also arguably goes through the most out of any character on a show where no one has it easy (paralysis of her left leg, loss of a loved one, torture, and mind-control, to name a few) but she never gets beaten down; instead, she comes out of every trial stronger and more determined than before.
Abby: Raven was the first character that I saw where I felt as though I was looking in the mirror. As a disabled female, I never felt represented until Raven appeared on my screen. She gets back up when she falls but to me the most novel thing about it was that we saw her fall, we saw her struggle and we saw her preserve and there are so many moments where Raven has made me cry and pause the episode because I was so in awe of what I was witnessing and it felt so true.
Alyssa: Raven Reyes is perhaps one of the most revolutionary characters on recent television. In terms of representation, her character is groundbreaking: a Latina, disabled women who is also an engineer and incredibly smart. Much like Hermione, the rest of The 100 wouldn't have stood a chance against hostile grounders and environmental perils, among other things, without Raven. I could make a list of everything Raven has done that's both impressive and vital for survival, but I would take up the whole article. Raven is incredibly strong, literally and figuratively. She also knows how to stand up for herself. Rejecting the typical romantic plot lines associated with female characters, she ended her relationship with Finn in Season 1 because she knew she deserved better. When Finn protested, saying he loved her, she responded with "but not the way I want to be loved." We see this again in Season 3 after Raven takes the chip, fed up with her pain and wanting to finally feel some peace. While everyone else feels content once they take the chip, Raven is different. She does accept this newfound peace at first, but after a conversation with Jasper she changes her mind. Instead of blocking painful memories, the chip also blocks happy memories. Realizing that she is unable to remember anything about Finn, she rebels against the artificial happiness that came with the chip and is henceforth determined to get ALIE out of her head. If anyone doubts the presence of innovative female characters on television, show them any Raven Reyes scene and they will change their mind.
Rosa Diaz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
Picked by Jessie
Intimidating and intelligent, Rosa Diaz is one of the best detectives in the Nine-Nine. She rarely shows her vulnerable side, except to those she trusts the most. Her composure, smarts, and determination make her a stand-out among the amazing cast of characters of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Rosa is hilarious. She’s strong, witty, terrifying, and human. It doesn’t hurt that she’s bisexual (I might be biased), and that her coming out story was amazingly handled by the show and her friends. Rosa’s friendships bring out the best in her, but she’s also fantastic to watch on her own. She is absolutely one of the best characters on the show—which is saying a lot, because Brooklyn Nine-Nine has some of the best characters, period.
Sansa Stark (Game of Thrones)
Picked by Alyssa
Sansa, the oldest Stark daughter and one of the incredibly unlucky five Stark siblings on Game of Thrones, is in my opinion one of the most underappreciated characters on the show, and probably on television in general. We compare her to her younger sister Arya, who has a knack for bloody fights and kill lists, while Sansa is more at home wearing soft dresses and eating lemon cakes. It's easy to pick Arya as the "stronger" character: she's a literal fighter, she's rough—she has all the qualities of a traditional strong male character. What people forget is that equal strength can be found in being smart and kind, and Sansa's survival skills and adaptability while always being surrounded by people who want to use her as a pawn is as impressive as Arya's ruthlessness. Sansa learns from each cruel captor she has on the show: first the Lannisters, then Little Finger, expertly manipulating each situation and ultimately coming out victorious despite the obstacles she's faced. As Tyrion put it, "Lady Stark, you may survive us yet."
Shuri (Black Panther)
Picked by April
It’s little wonder Shuri is here (although I’ll admit that Black Panther has so many wonderful female characters that I struggled to pick just one), as she was definitely Black Panther’s standout for me. Letitia Wright does an excellent job of portraying a character who is intelligent, brave and resourceful, while maintaining the joy and somewhat innocent guile of a 16-year old. She’s a meme lord, a fashion plate, the smartest person in the entire MCU and a wonder to behold on screen.
Veronica Mars (Veronica Mars)
Picked by Sarah
Veronica Mars is one of my favorite female characters. She was once an innocent high school girl who valued partying and boys, but all that changed when her best friend, Lilly Kane, was murdered and her dad (the Sheriff at the time) was made an outcast in Neptune, California, when he wrongfully arrested Lilly’s dad for the murder. Veronica was a determined young woman. She fought to find Lilly’s real killer and clear her dad’s reputation. Veronica never let anything get in her way, while also showing it was okay to be emotional at times The 3-season series was cancelled well before its time, but the movie that had been crowd-funded by fans was a great closure for many. Veronica was just as strong and determined 10 years later.
Wynonna Earp (Wynonna Earp)
Picked by Sam
A woman who is quite literally haunted by the demons from her past, Wynonna returns to her hometown of Purgatory on her 27th birthday, to attend her uncle’s funeral and also to become the Earp Heir: the only one who can slay the demons who have infested the Ghost River Triangle since the death of her great-great-grandpappy almost 100 years before.
Wynonna is rough around the edges, distrusting of authority after her several stints in juvie and a psychiatric hospital, and forever changed by the fact that her father and older sister died when she was twelve—her father unintentionally by Wynonna’s own hand. She has a sharp wit, downs tequila like it’s water, and carries a “big-ass gun”—a badass by every definition of the word. But Wynonna also has a soft side, is filled with endless love for her little sister, Waverly, and every kill she makes—demon or otherwise—tears her apart a little more. Her transition from an unwilling heir to a true heroine is beautiful.
Zoe Washburne (Firefly)
Picked by April
Zoe from Firefly is still one of my favorite sci-fi heroines. She was one of the most important parts of the crew, and perhaps the only function adult on the whole ship. She was witty, bold and brave, married to the ship’s pilot, second in command, a wonderful person with a kind heart and just a great addition to a too-short lived show.
Who are some of your favourite female characters? Let us know in the comments below!