Heroines: From Life and Literature

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According to a recent survey, Obama has beaten out Jesus as America's most admired person. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the top ten heroes were nearly all men, with Mother Theresa coming in at #10.


The extended list is woefully devoid of women, too. While George W. Bush shockingly rang in at number 5, beating out Abraham Lincoln – ranked 6 - and God (11), Hilary Clinton appeared down at number 12, and Condoleeza Rice at 19. On a list of 23, only five were women (the other two: 20. Oprah Winfrey and 21. Sarah Palin). In previous years, Princess Diana made the cut, as did Eleanor Roosevelt and Venus Williams. When asked: "who do you admire enough to call a hero?" a cross-section of Americans unfortunately thought of mostly men. And although many of these men are worthy of our admiration, we have to wonder, where are all the heroines?

We've addressed the shortage of women on quite a few lists before, from writers everyone should read, to Rolling Stone's 100 greatest singers. We've even celebrated our recently deceased heroines. Unfortunately, in this case there is not one author we can blame. It seems that Americans in general are too hard on women, and would rather idolize the worst president in history than activist Del Martin (yes, I know she is not as well known as Bush, but she is certainly more deserving) or Michelle Obama.

However, some of our most memorable role models come from books, where there is no dearth of heroines. Perhaps it is because they so rarely disappoint us – barring the time that Jo turned down Laurie – and after the first read, they lose all ability to shock us. It is also easier to idolize a fictional character, and for some of us, more natural. Mental Floss has compiled a short list of 8 literary heroines, and although they include some really amazing characters, we know there are a lot more out there. Their list includes: Hester Prynne, Scout Finch, Jo March, Elizabeth Bennet, Karana (from Island of the Blue Dolphins), Jane Eyre, Helen Graham, and Anne Shirley (from Anne of Green Gables). We would like to add: Julie (from Jean Craighead George's novel Julie of the Wolves), Clara and Alba Trueba, Hermione Granger, Denver, Margarita, Emma Woodhouse, Constance Chatterley, and Caddy Compson.

So, who did we miss, real or fictional?

Obama Tops List of Americans' Heroes [AOL News]
Obama tops Jesus in new poll [Christian Science Monitor]
8 Literary Heroines: Sisters Doin' It For Themselves [MentalFloss]



Real: Nelly Bly, Amelia Earhart, both Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, Aphra Behn, Mary Wollstonecraft, Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell, Harriet Tubman, Charlie Parkhurst, Calamity Jane, Emma Goldman, Grace O'Malley . . . so many more.

Fictional: Cordelia Vorkosigan (that's my kind of shopping!), Meg Murray, Cimorene, Eilonwy, Kate in The Perilous Gard, Sheherazade, Jo March, The Miller's Clever Daughter, Harriet Vane . . . I could go on and on.