Female Characters We Admired Growing Up

In an entertainment world where male characters are often shown to be the ones who are brave and powerful  (as research conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media shows), we at the Women’s Foundation of California decided to ask ourselves, what female characters in books, television and film did we admire while we were growing up?

Below are some of our favorite characters and authors (everything from the ever-plucky fictional Nancy Drew to author Judy Blume). We’ve also included recommendations for books, films, and television shows to share with our children.

What female characters in books and movies did you admire growing up?

Gregg Solimine: I really enjoyed women characters in cartoons who kicked a** like Cheetara in Thundercats.

I especially liked Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote, she was always confident, fearless and tough. She was really smart and took care of herself.

Recommends: The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene and The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Laura Rosbrow of the Eva Gunther Foundation

Laura Rosbrow formerly of the Eva Gunther Foundation

Laura Rosbrow: I really appreciated Claire Danes’ character in My So Called Life.

Although she was obviously smart, she didn’t quite fit in with her school.

I looked up to her critical view of society.

She was a good, well-rounded female character.

Recommends: Mathilda by Roald Dahl

Hannah Hill, Program Associate

Hannah Hill: I hated the American Girl dolls because in the stories, they always did the right thing, which seemed super unreal to me.

I liked female characters who defied stereotypes rather than reinforced them, like Mathilda, Jo in Little Women and Charlotte Doyle in True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.

Recommends: The movie Fried Green Tomatoes

Kim Kenny, Development and Communications Officer

Kim Kenny: Personally, Judy Blume was influential. She wrote Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Amazing!

She wrote about young women experiencing the kind of life changes young women experience.

Growing up, my favorite TV show was Laverne & Shirley. They were two single woman who really took care of themselves and each other. And they worked!

Recommends: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

Mavis Gruver: Pippi Longstocking. I liked her because she made her own decisions and seemed like she would be really fun to hang out with. She lived her life on her own terms.

Mavis Gruver, Grants Associate

Other favorites? Ramona Quimby in the novels by Beverly Cleary and The Mozart Season by Virginia Wolff.

I liked The Mozart Season because it was about a teenage girl who had to decide if she wanted to do sports or music and she figured out a way to do both. She was very introspective and a lot of the book was about her thinking things through and making her own decisions. I really liked that she spent a lot of time with her dad and her dad was always there in the stories.

When I was growing up, my dad worked odd hours so that he could be home with my sister and me after school.

Recommends: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren and An Outbreak of Peace by Sarah Pirtle (out of print)

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