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The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked 

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Originally by Ranker Community
Updated February 21, 2020 192.7k votes 18.8k voters 801.8k views 249 items

List Rules Vote up the most unforgettable women and girls in books, plays, poetry, etc. Please, no comic book characters.

Some of the greatest characters in literature are women and girls, but which ones are the very best? From the evil to the undeniably perfect, the always strong to those who those who never give up, these are the greatest female characters from literature of all genres. This list includes the best female characters of all ages, like the youthful girls Matilda (Matilda) and Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) to the ever-so-adult Evelyn Couch (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe). We're even ranking immortal female characters, like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings and the goddess Athena you read about in Greek mythology.

Why do female literary characters stay with readers long after they’ve finished reading the novels these characters are featured in? Often, it’s due to the intimacy with which readers have come to know a character. Jane Eyre (and all of her desires and feelings), for example, becomes so real to readers that they feel as if they’ve met and understood this amazing female character. So many people relate to fiery, independent Jo March that her marriage at the end of Little Women feels like a betrayal - something the 2019 film adaptation addresses head-on.

Other times, readers love female characters in literature because of the audacity of their actions. Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind) was exceedingly bold for a woman of her time, while Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities) is an exemplar of tireless villainy. Some of the most popular female literary characters manage to embody both wholesome and defiant, becoming reflections of the complex nature of women.

For the wide range of personality traits we find in these great female characters (and the audacious actions they’ve performed), these women have earned their titles as the best female characters in literature. They may be young or old, charming or black-hearted, but they are all memorable. Whether you love them or love to hate them, all the famous fictional heroines are here in this list of the best female characters in literary history. 

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list ordered by
1
Hermione Granger is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Harry Potter series
Hermione Jean Granger is a fictional character in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. She initially appears in the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, as a new student on her ...more
2
Elizabeth Bennet is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Pride and Prejudice
Elizabeth Darcy is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She is often referred to as Eliza or Lizzy by her friends and family. Elizabeth is the second child in a ...more
3
Alice is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Alice in Wonderland
Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas.
4
Matilda is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Matilda
Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda.
5
Athena is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Polar Bear added Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld
Alea was an epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, prominent in Arcadian mythology, under which she was worshiped at Alea, Mantineia and Tegea. Alea was initially an independent goddess, but was ...more
6
Jo March is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Little Women
Jo March is a fictional character from the 1868 novel Little Women.T he principal character, she is 15 years old at the beginning of the book, strong and willful, struggling to subdue her fiery ...more
7
Scout Finch is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
To Kill a Mockingbird
Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird.
8
Éowyn is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
The Lord of the Rings
Éowyn is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, who appears in his most famous work, The Lord of the Rings. She is a noblewoman of Rohan who is described as a
9
Jane Eyre is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name.
10
Professor Minerva McGona... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
celiagold added Harry Potter Universe
Minerva McGonagall is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series.
11
Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Mary Poppins series
Mary Poppins is a fictional character and the protagonist of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins books and all of its adaptations. A magical English nanny, she blows in on the East Wind and arrives at ...more
12
Luna Lovegood is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Harry Potter series
Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling.
13
Artemis is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Polar Bear added Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, was originally ...more
14
Katniss Everdeen is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
The Hunger Games
Katniss Everdeen is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. Her name comes from an edible plant called katniss. Academy Award-winning actress ...more
15
Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Gone with the Wind
Scarlett O'Hara is the central character in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and in the later film of the same name. She also is the main character in the 1970 musical Scarlett ...more
16
Galadriel is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
Galadriel is a character created by J.R.R. Tolkien, appearing in his Middle-earth legendarium. She appears in The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. She was a royal Elf ...more
17
Dorothy Gale is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Dorothy Gale is a fictional character and protagonist of many of the Oz novels by the American author L. Frank Baum. Her best friend is Oz's ruler Princess Ozma. Dorothy first appears in Baum's ...more
18
Anne Shirley is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Anne of Green Gables
Anne Shirley is a fictional character introduced in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Montgomery wrote in her journal that the idea for Anne's story came from ...more
19
Arwen is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
wendy-ya added The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Arwen Undómiel is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. She appears in his novel, The Lord of the Rings, usually published in three volumes. Arwen is one of the ...more
20
Daenerys Targaryen is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
A Song of Ice and Fire
Game of Thrones
 
Daenerys Targaryen is a fictional character of the book Game of Thrones.
21
Freya is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Polar Bear added Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen
22
Arya Stark is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
A Song of Ice and Fire
Arya Stark is a fictional character created by American author George R. R. Martin. She is a prominent point of view character in Martin's award-winning A Song of Ice and Fire series, and also a ...more
23
Molly Weasley is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part I
Molly Weasley (nᅢᄅe Prewett) is a fictional character in the Harry Potter book series written by J. K. Rowling. She is a witch housewife, married to Arthur Weasley and mother of Bill, Charlie, ...more
24
Laura Ingalls is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Little House on the Prairie
Laura Ingalls Wilder is a fictional character from the 1984 film Bless All the Dear Children.
25
Aphrodite is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
Polar Bear added

Theogony

Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Her Roman equivalent is the goddess Venus. She is identified with the planet Venus. As with many ancient Greek deities, ...more