If you ask my sister, who is an accomplished athlete and certified fitness instructor, about her fitness role models, you will get an unusual answer. Her role model and inspiration is not an actress or TV star, but a fictional heroine from a YA fantasy series, Keladry of Mindelan. This past week, as I went through some of my old childhood belongings and books, I found this series, along with many others. As I sorted through these books, I was reminded of the many ways the women and girls in the books I read as a child inspired and motivated me as well.
From Alanna, Daine and Keladry to Meg Murry, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables, my world as a young reader was filled with spunky, feisty girls who dreamed big and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I recognize that many of these women were white, cisgendered and heterosexual, but I also recognize the profound impact they have had on my world. This isn’t the case for all of these women though. There is one moment where someone mentioned below (I won’t give it away) discovers she is interested in women, and the way the author writes that moment, the way this is taken in stride by her friends is a beautiful example of what acceptance and approval could and should look like.
When going through the books I had, I was struck my how much more vivid the characters from book series were. By watching a character you love and admire grow over a series of books, you can see not only who they are, but what they have to overcome, how hard they have to work. I hope there are more wonderful, culturally diverse book series out there, but I can only speak to my own childhood, and who influenced me as a kid. These are the young adult and children’s series with strong women who inspired me.
- Alanna of Trebond, Veralidaine Sarrasri (Daine), Keladry of Mindelan, and Sandry, Daja and Tris (books by Tamora Pierce) – Circle of Magic quartet, Song of the Lioness quartet, Protector of the Small quartet, The Immortals quartet and lots more
- Meg Murry and Polly O’Keefe (books by Madeline L’Engle) – A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels
- Violet and Jessie Alden (books by Gertrude Chandler Warner) – The Boxcar Children
- Laura, Carrie and Mary Ingalls (books by Laura Ingalls Wilder) – Little House in the Big Woods and its sequels
- Minette, Odge, Belladonna and more (books by Eva Ibbotsen) – The Secret of Platform 13, The Island of the Aunts and many more
- Clottee, Hattie Campbell, Patience Whipple, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette ad so many more – (multiple authors, published by Scholastic) The Dear America and Royal Diaries series
- Lucy and Susan Pevensie, Jill Pole (books by CS Lewis) – Chronicles of Narnia series
- Lyra Belacqua (books by Phillip Pullman) – His Dark Materials series
- Hermione Granger (books by JK Rowling) – Harry Potter series
- Anne Shirley (books by Lucy Maud Montgomery) – Anne of Green Gables series
- Molly McIntire, Addy Walker, Josefina Montoya and more (multiple authors) – American Girl Doll books
- Dorothy Gale (books by L. Frank Baum) – Wizard of Oz series
A big thanks to the authors who created these characters! I would love to add to this list – if there are any awesome fictional women or girls who inspired you as a kid, please let me know!