SparkNotes Blog

10 Badass Women Of Classic Literature

Badass women seem to be everywhere this summer. The Black Widow is kicking all sorts of butt in The Avengers, the heroine of Brave is showing off her archery skills while some how managing to keep her massive (awesome) hair out of her face, and even the girl from the cell phone commercials ditched her dresses for an outfit a little more suited for her motorcycle. So as you look over your summer reading list, it’s hard not to notice that kick-ass ladies abound in classic lit. Here is a small sampling of these hard core women gracing the pages of your books. Note: this list is sticking to AP lit stock, though your author would like to recognize the ladies of YA (Katniss, Gemma Doyle, Cyd Charisse, Alaska Young, the women of DA and the Order of the Phoenix) are just as hardcore.

1. Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice: Lizzy Bennet won’t settle, won’t back down, and won’t take any of your crap no matter how cute you look in a cravat.

2. Eponine in Les Miserables: Eponine is a little distracted by her unrequited love for Marius, but even though she has multiple chances to ruin things between him and Cosette, she helps them instead. And there’s the whole “took a bullet for Marius” thing too.

3. Emma Goldman in Ragtime: As badass in the novel as she was in real life, Ms Goldman was an anarchist fighting for the rights of women before they had the right to vote. She also gave some really solid relationship advice.

4. Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables: Yes she’s cheerful and chipper and a lot of other adjectives that aren’t exactly synonymous with badass, but Anne can be as tough as she is optimistic, managing to save a kid’s life before there were House reruns to teach pre-teens how to handle medical emergencies.

5. Rosalind in As You Like It: Brave enough to live life in exile in a dangerous forest, crafty enough to create a schedule of romance from her beloved, and wise enough to know you should always travel with a court jester.

6. Sofia in The Color Purple: Sofia has to deal with extreme sexism, racism, and all around jerkishness, but she always knew how she deserved to be treated, and stood up for her rights in the face of dire consequences.

7. Ofglen in The Handmaiden’s Tale: The Republic of Gilead is not an awesome place to be female; women have zero rights and are used as servants and professional baby makers. But even in this scary world Ofglen is brave enough to be part of a resistance group bent on getting some rights back.

8. Jo March in Little Women: A playwright, actress, and journalist, Jo’s not afraid to do what needs to get done, whether that means hacking off her hair to pay the bills or leaving her safe, sister-filled home to start her career.

9. Lysistrata in Lysistrata: Instead of waiting around for the menfolk to cut out the warring and come home, Lysistrata decides to rally the womanly troops and have them withhold their affection until the guys got peaceful. Intelligence and leadership at it’s best.

10. Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility: Jane Austen knew how to write strong women. Proving being badass doesn’t always have to be about kicking ass and taking names, Elinor displays her awesomeness by being the rock her family needs, instead of falling in apart in the face of heartache when there wasn’t even any Ben & Jerry’s to console her.

Did I forget any kickass ladies of lit?