Celebrating Inspirational Characters on International Women’s Day

As we celebrate International Women’s Day around the world, it is easy to think of the countless women that have inspired us, be they fictional or not. They fight for what they believe in, love unconditionally, defy social and economic boundaries, rule countries, and save lives. It is impossible to list every female character deserving of recognition below are some of our favorites.

 

Princess Leia Organa- Star Wars

Written By: Deb

I remember watching Star Wars in the movie theater in 1977 when it first came out.  I was eleven years old and I was mesmerized from the minute the introduction started scrolling up the screen.  I had never seen anything like it.

The characters were dynamic, the story was action packed and the effects were mind blowing; but the one thing that resonated with me and still does today, was the character of Princess Leia  Yes she was a princess, but she was one badass princess. She was strong, determined, and tough. She was not content to sit back and let others do things that she wouldn’t do.

She was a leader, a warrior and she led by example.  She was always in the thick of the fight; never content to be in the background or the safe place.  She stood up for herself and for her people and she was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary.

She was respected by both men and women. She never considered herself less than or more than anyone else.  My eleven year old brain latched onto this. Leia was the first fictional movie character that I had seen, that was the equal to the male characters in the movie.  This was groundbreaking stuff for me and I think it’s why she is still relatable today.

The legacy of Princess Leia continues every time a woman stands up for herself and her beliefs.

 

Charlie Bradbury – Supernatural

Written By: Tricia

The fandom I’m most immersed with right now is Supernatural, and when I think about strong female characters, the first one that comes to mind for me is Charlie Bradbury (played by Felicia Day). Charlie may have only been in nine episodes, but to say she’s left an impression – not only on me, but on the fandom itself – would be a gross understatement.

Charlie was orphaned at the young age of 12 years old when both of her parents were involved in a car accident which killed her father and rendered her mother brain-dead and dependent on life-support. Instead of letting her grief consume her, she rose above it, growing up to be an eccentric, intelligent, and incredibly brave woman.

One of my favorite things about Charlie is that she was so unapologetically herself all the time. She came out as a lesbian within minutes of meeting Sam and Dean, seemingly without a shred of shame (as it should be!). Her desk at work is decorated with a bunch of figurines, including some from Star Wars, Wonder Woman, and Harry Potter. She has a tattoo of Princess Leia that she got at Comic Con, and she LARPs as the queen of one of the four kingdoms of Moondoor. Her character showed the young viewers and women everywhere that it’s okay to be more than a little nerdy, and that the right people (like Sam, Dean, and Castiel in her case) will love you because of it, not in spite of it.

She shows her bravery time and time again, from the very first episode when she goes up against Dick Roman to help Sam and Dean, to the moment when she decides to take her mother off of life-support, to the moment that leads to her death when she makes the decision to put her life in danger rather than give the information about The Book of The Damned to the Styne family – even after Sam and Dean told her to give them whatever they want.

Proving that Charlie is every bit of the bad-ass woman we all thought she was, Charlie chooses to grab a knife and take a stand against Eldon, fighting to extend every possible second of her life instead of cowering in the bathroom and waiting for Eldon to find her. Ultimately Eldon wins the fight, but her last moments were ones bursting with stark bravery and I think, worthy of her character being included in this article about International Women’s Day.

 

Wynonna and Waverly Earp – Wynonna Earp

Written By: Kayla

Wynonna Earp is just a badass and everyone knows it. Revenants know it, monsters know it, the fastest gunslinger in the west Doc Holliday himself knows it. She is headstrong, she is passionate, she is loyal and she is flawed. Doc once described Wynonna in one of my favorite quotes in the entire show- “she ain’t nobody’s but her own.”

Wynonna was faced with a daunting destiny that she had run from for years, and a troubled childhood to go along with it. She has a big gun, a quick tongue, and a fiery temper and from the first episode I loved her. And where’s there’s Wynonna, there’s her younger sister Waverly. Waverly had no claim on being the savior of the Ghost River Triangle, she had no preordained destiny, but that’s never stopped her.

Waverly – like Wynonna – makes her own rules. The first time we see her in the show, she comes in brandishing a shotgun. She broke up with her high school sweetheart, in favor of dating Nicole Haught – a female sheriff in her very small town.

Waverly’s got the brains, too. While she never left home like her sister did, she has studied languages, the town of Purgatory’s history, and the supernatural and is a very powerful ally to her sister.

Wynonna and Waverly are adventurous and fun and they put family above all, and even though they experience moments of self doubt, it never deters them from remember just who they are.

These sisters are headstrong and selfless, and it’s great to see a show with strong female leads who take their fears and flaws and rather than let those those things shut them down, they grow from it and are stronger for it.

 

Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots – Reign

Written By: Dean

“Well behaved women seldom make history,” is a quote by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich that’s made its way onto t-shirts, and accessories. Perhaps, more important, is the embodiment of this quote- women, defying societal norms, and actually making history.
When one begins to trace their fingers back through history to find the source of women empowerment, it can veer into a lot of places- as women have been strong and powerful for ages, even before they were truly recognized for it. For some people, they can trace it back to the Elizabethan era and rule of Elizabeth I.

The CW’s 4-season series Reign, chooses, instead, to focus on the prequel to Elizabeth, with her cousin, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. While not as popular a subject to many as her cousin, Elizabeth- watching this series, and following a fictional take on history, has endeared me to Mary, and her strength, grace and power.

Arguably, Mary (Adelaide Kane), has been in a struggle for power before she could even really grasp what it was. She became the queen of Scotland at six days old, following the death of her father, King James V. From that early an age, she is thrust into a role of power, and deception, and maneuvers- even within the walls of her own home.

As a young queen, Mary experiences trials with men wanting to take her power, or wield it to their advantage.

“Scotland has one true ruler, Mary, Queen of Scots, daughter of James V, crowned on her sixth day and not appointed by the Pope, but the Almighty himself. It is my duty, my God-given birthright and my crown! And I defend it from anyone who attempts to take it!” -Mary

Time and time again, Mary stands up to kings, to princes, to countries that would be at war with her for her convictions. She denies anything that would not benefit her country or her heart, swatting away suitors, deals, and arrangements. Even after falling in love with and marrying her betrothed, the dauphin of France, Francis II, Mary refuses to settle into a ‘comfortable’ and ‘socially acceptable’ role of a wife- and instead, works with Francis as a partner to bring honor and peace to both her country, and his.

This is, not to say she doesn’t make errors as a human – even disastrous ones. But she never falters from her heart, or her beliefs. Through incredible hardships, betrayal, losses, and even death – Mary overcomes for love of duty, her people, and for Scotland.
While I’m talking about Mary’s strength, and and unshakable determination and heart, I cannot go through this article without also mentioning the other splendid and powerful ladies on Reign, Catherine de’ Medici (Megan Follows) and Elizabeth I (Rachel Skarsten), who both exhibit these same characteristics. In a world and age full of kings, and the power of man, all three of the leading ladies of Reign stand their own, beginning an era where a queen exhibits just as much fierceness and power as a king- which is a message that should ring from the highest towers. The best part? A lot of it is historically accurate- these women really changed history. And, the actresses portraying them did a phenomenal job at bringing the depth and fierceness to these badass women that they deserved.

Obviously, there are historical inaccuracies to make the show what it is; however, after doing more research, it’s impressive that the majority of the series held very true to its history. And so, you see, it’s true. Well behaved women seldom make history. These women were true to themselves, and their legacy is left to speak for them, inspiring girls and women to follow in those footsteps and be everything they are capable of being- strong, powerful, independent, and genuine.

Mary, Queen of Scots, is a powerful example both in Adelaide Kane’s amazing vision of her, and in history. She was a queen who fought for her beliefs, for her heart, for her country, and for a new world for those to follow- a world that we are still building with others- including amazing women who are now making history in this same way.

 

Hermione Granger – Harry Potter Series

Written By: Brianna

How can we celebrate our favorite female characters without including Miss Hermione Granger? As a young, nerdy reader who was handed the Harry Potter series because ‘every other book is under your reading level’, it was a delight to discover a kindred spirit in Hermione.

Readers meet Hermione and immediately see her desire to help others as she aids Neville in his search for Trevor the toad, and informs Ron of the dirt on his nose. An aspect of her character that only grows as the series progresses. Shortly thereafter she is teased relentlessly for her cleverness (to which I could easily relate), and is often told to stop being a ‘know it all’ and to quiet down.
In true heroine fashion however, Hermione never once apologizes for who she is. I greatly admired her unapologetic love of learning. She is constantly outstripping her classmates in nearly every classroom scene in the series, even taking every course on offer during her third year. More than once Hermione’s quick wits save the golden trio throughout the series, and our series hero Harry comes to rely on her for her wits as well. Even her teachers hail her as “the brightest witch of her age.”

Beyond her smarts, Hermione’s passion is another reason she is a phenomenal female character. When we meet her she is helping others, already offering a hand to anyone that needs it. She is continually standing up to bullies, facing off with Draco Malfoy and Professor Snape in her first year. As she grows we see her working to change the wizarding world for the better; fighting for everything from the rights of house elves to the rights of muggles as Voldemort gains power. Her willingness to step up and fight alongside Harry proves her bravery and passion. Watching her character take aim at injustices inspired me as a young girl Hermione proved time and again that making waves creates change.

Hermione is always willing to go to battle for what she believes, even when seemingly much more powerful forces are against her. Celebrated for her brains as well as her bravery, Hermione is a shining beacon of female power for thousands of young girls and women.

In the words of actress Emma Watson, who portrays Hermione on screen, “Young girls are told you have to be the delicate princess. Hermione taught them that you can be the warrior.”

 

Elphaba – Wicked

Written By: Guest Writer Emily Rose

**Note: This article will discuss the character of Elphaba in the musical version of Wicked. While the book version of Elphaba is also an incredible woman, she is very different. I am choosing to focus here on the musical version.**

When audience members see Wicked for the first time, they know that they are about to have what they know of the witches of Oz turned on its head. But my twelve year old self was completely unprepared to have my vision of myself turned on its head.

It’s common knowledge that the Wicked Witch of the West- Elphaba, as we come to know her- is green and has magic. Wicked, from its opening scenes, discusses what that means for her. She is outcast by those who should be supportive. She is told that her greenness makes her ugly and bad. She is led to believe that her talent is a flaw.

Despite the pain and loneliness that she has suffered, Elphaba retains her kind heart and strong convictions. In her classes at Shiz, she develops a close friendship with Dr. Dillamond, who is seen by society as a lesser citizen, just as she is for her green skin. She speaks up against figures of authority for what she believes is right, even if it ostracizes her further.

When she has the opportunity to meet the Wizard, Elphaba hopes that she will find a place where she finally belongs and where she will have the power to promote the sort of world she wants. But Elphaba quickly learns that to have the power and acceptance she wants, she would have to condone a system of oppression.

And she says no. Twice.

Elphaba, green girl, social outcast, target of bullying, walks away from her first and best friend and a chance to work with the great and powerful Wizard of Oz because it goes against moral beliefs.

The end of the play leaves the story of Elphaba on a bittersweet note. Yes, she is outcast. Yes, she has lost her best friend. But she has taken meaningful steps to protect the Animals threatened by the Wizard and she has found love, acceptance, and a lifelong ally in Fiyero.

Outside of the fictional land of Oz, Elphaba’s importance as a role model female character is staggering. Seeing this outcast young woman grow into someone confident and powerful is incredibly empowering, especially for young girls. Her magic is representative of so many talents and passions that young people possess but for whatever reason are encouraged not to pursue. The birth defect of green skin and the discrimination she faces because of it are representative of the real difficulties faced by young people with disabilities, who fear that they will be forever perceived as somehow lesser for their illness.

But Elphaba’s magic is not a character flaw and her greenness doesn’t detract from her worth. Her strength, her bravery, and her unwavering passion for justice are admirable. Through all her mistakes and best laid plans, she remains true to herself and kind of heart.

When I first saw Wicked at the age of 12, Elphaba Thropp completely changed my perspective on what my life could be. She taught me not to be held back by society’s perceptions of my ability, and to fight against injustice even if mine was the only voice raised in the struggle. And so today, on International Women’s Day, I raise my glass to this important woman from the merry old land of Oz.

 

Donna Noble – Doctor Who

Written By: Olivia

Donna is a companion of the tenth Doctor on Doctor Who. Her normal job was a secretary, before she met the Doctor, which changed her life forever. Donna is a strong woman who doesn’t let anyone walk all over her, regardless of their gender or species. Whenever some other species from another planet tries to walk over her because she’s just a human, she fights back. Her best quote was when she was at the Shadow Proclamation, and inter-galaxy space police, she says, “I’m a human being. Maybe not the stuff of legend but every bit as important as Time Lords, thank you.” She doesn’t let anyone belittle her. She’s confident and strong.

She’s also incredibly kind, and wants everyone to be treated equally regardless of their species, gender, or any other factor. When they traveled to another planet where humans had enslaved another species, called the Ood, Donna was appalled by the men who didn’t think the Ood were equal to humans, and she helped set the Ood species free.

Even when humans were treating other humans unfairly, she stepped in. When Donna and the Doctor travel to the planet that’s giant library, they meet some other archaeologists there. One of them, isn’t smart, compared to the others, and they make fun of her for it, and never treat her with respect. Donna steps in, to make sure someone listens to her and someone treats her with respect and kindness.

Donna is great because she didn’t have any spectacular skills, by the looks of it, but that didn’t stop her. She knew she was worth something. Her confidence and her willingness to always fight for equality and to fight for something good, was better than any ability they could’ve given her. She traveled with the Doctor and saved people from dying in the fires of Pompeii, even when the Doctor didn’t want to, she forced him to save some people. She saved enslaved species, and she saved the entire universe from being destroyed by Daleks. She was sassy and strong, and she never gave up. Here’s to you, Donna, for showing us, everyone is important, no matter what, and anyone can make a difference in the universe.

 

Claire Fraser – Outlander Series

Written By: Brianna

Whether you are a book reader or Starz series junkie, there is no denying that Claire Fraser of the Outlander Series is a strong, fearless woman that takes no crap from anyone. Her story is one full of twists and turns that would test anyone, but Claire takes everything in stride proving the strength of her character. Her experience as a World War II nurse gives her the fortitude to deal with the most intense situations. Even traveling through time to the rugged Scottish countryside, Claire does not miss a beat.

She faces an unbelievable situation, traveling through time to another era. Yet just hours after her sudden arrival we see Claire jump into action to heal the wounds of young Jamie. Though she is a prisoner, she quickly demands the respect of her captures in a time when women did not order men around.  Claire’s quick wit and determination carry her throughout her adventures in the Scottish highlands as she fights to return to her time, but develops other longings along the way. Her passion for medicine and helping others only grows as she become accustomed to the ways of the Scottish Highlands and clan life. She quickly learns the herbs and practices of the time helping her earn the clan’s trust, and making her vital to the lives of those around her.

As her desires shift, Claire is no less passionate about saving the Scotsmen from their historic fates. She strategizes with the Jacobites, making political and royal allies in an attempt to sway history. Her cleverness saves her and her husband from many near death situations as the story unfolds.

Her sharp mind also helps her navigate the trying times of the 1950’s.  She faces obstinate men as she studies to become a surgeon, fighting both the social stigma of the time and with her own husband who feels she should not be so ambitious.

Overall Claire’s smarts, passion, and willpower lead her on a journey that has readers and viewers cheering her on. Claire would fit in with the most progressive women of today’s era, and it is no doubt one of the reasons we love her.

 

Clary Fairchild – Shadowhunters

Written By: Olivia

Clarissa Fairchild (Clary) is one of the main characters of Shadowhunters, a show about Nephilim warriors who fight demons and protect humans from monsters and other creatures. She was only 18 years old when her world was turned upside down. She found out she was not human and was able to see demons and other creatures, and was born to fight them. When her mother was kidnapped, Clary realizes her mother hid information about who she truly was.

Clary is a brave, strong woman who knows she needs to do, and doesn’t listen to anyone who tells her otherwise. After her mom is kidnapped and stuck in a coma, she goes to extraordinary lengths to rescue her. She meets with warlocks, battles demons, and visits people and creature all on the way to get her back, and find a potion to wake her mom up. When Clary loses her mom, Clary had only just found out about angels, demons, and monsters. She navigated this whole new part of herself and this new world she never knew existed, all in hopes in saving her mom. On the way, she battles her own demons and truths to find out who she really is.

Clary shows incredible bravery and perseverance, by going to place after place, all in search of her mom, even though she’s brand new to the whole demons and monsters thing, that doesn’t stop her. She brave enough to overcome any fears she had, in order to find her. Often people told Clary to stop or slow down in her search. They told her things were too dangerous, but Clary never listened to them. She followed her heart.

Clary becomes a great warrior, as she kills the biggest villain in the the show had for the first two seasons, who also happens to be her father. She battles him in a knife fight, and prevents him from killing a lot of innocent creatures.

One of Clary’s more underrated qualities is her intelligence. She put together so many clues in order to track down the location of her mom, and find a spell to wake her up. She also able to find the last missing Mortal Instrument, a powerful angelic item, when no one else was able to figure out where it was or what it was.

Clary is an amazing woman and warrior, who trusts her instincts to protect not only her friends and family, but humanity as well. Thank you, Clary, for showing us that when life throws stuff your way you don’t expect, that you don’t roll over; you stand up and fight.

Katniss Everdeen – Hunger Games Series

Written By: Olivia

Katniss Everdeen, is a teenager in The Hunger Games series, living in the poorest district of Panem, the country that is a future version of North America. She makes a living for her family by hunting animals to eat and trade. Her story begins when Prim, her younger sister is selected to the Hunger Games, an annual event where 24 children are pitted against one another in a fight to the death with only one winner. Katniss can’t bear to see her sister die, so she volunteers to go in her sister’s place. Katniss shows incredibly bravery and protective instincts, to go to a place, where she pretty much assumes she’s going to die, in order to prevent that from happening to her younger sister. She does something not many people would do.

Before the Hunger Games begin, the competitors must show off their skills. When Katniss does this, none of the judges are paying attention to her. She shows them they are being rude, and she deserves more respect, by firing an arrow directly at their table. The judges were impressed by her moxy and her archery skills. Katniss didn’t back down, because those people were more powerful and more wealthy than her. She knew she deserved respect, and made sure they knew that.

Katniss shows off her skills during the games. She wins by using her incredible survival and hunting skills. She was smart, cunning, and an excellent fighter. I think what I loved about Katniss, was she still kept her kindness and her humanity, even during the games. She didn’t compromise her morals or turn into a savage killing machine during the games. She befriends Rue, a young girl like her sister, and does everything to keep her safe and protected. Unfortunately Rue dies, and that is what hurts Katniss the most, is that she couldn’t save her. That really changes how Katniss thinks, because she really feels how powerful the government is, and that is her spark. When it’s just her and Peeta left, she refuses to give them a show and have one of them kill the other. Her and Peeta both agree to die, so there is no winner, but at the last second they’re stopped, so they can both be winners. This act of defiance, is what gives the whole country a spark, to fight back.

That one act sets off a series of events that is what allows Katniss to lead the country into battle against the government and win. Katniss shows us how tough life can be, but she shows us we must always be defiant when life wants to knock us down. She shows us we must never compromise who were. Katniss, thank you for showing us, to be brave, be smart, and when something looks wrong, you don’t ignore it, you do something to change it.

 

New Disney Princesses

Written By: Dean

For years, little girls grew up with fairytales that ended with ‘and she and the prince lived happily ever after’. Recently, Disney’s been defying these traditional fairytales, and giving us courageous, strong and independent female characters that tell one heck of a good story on their own, no love interest included.

Perhaps the most well known are Merida (Brave), Elsa (Frozen) and Moana. The three princesses share something incredible in common- they are independent, and amazing all on their own.

The removal of love interests encourages girls to follow their dreams. The themes usually also encourage other types of love- that of a friend, or a family member. Princesses work hard, can rule on their own, want to rule on their own- and are chasing dreams, instead of chasing a man they just met. They can be anything they want to be, they don’t have to fit into a stereotype, and they can change the world because of who they are without having to try and ‘fit in’.

This speaks volumes. Instead of informing girls that ‘happily ever after’ ends with a prince and true love’s kiss- they’re now encouraging girls through the princesses to build their own happily ever afters, by following their dreams- and if a love interest comes along later, great. If not, well, you’ve got it covered.

Brianna

Brianna works full time in the publishing industry, passionately building books to bring to the masses. Her first fandom was Harry Potter, which she joined at age 11. Her love for books took her abroad to earn her Masters Degree at University College London, after which she lived in New York City, and now resides in Austin. She loves all things fandom including Supernatural, Doctor Who, and more. Ever the introvert, she can usually be found reading, playing with her dog, listening to music and practicing yoga. Brianna joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2018 where she unites her love for all things "nerd" with her passion for writing. Find her on Twitter here: @bookbag09

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