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The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked

Updated February 21, 2020 209.1k votes 20.6k voters 862.2k views228 items

List RulesVote 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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  • Athena1
    1,910
    623

    Athena

    Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld
    Alea was an epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, prominent in Arcadian mythology, under which...  more
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  • Elizabeth Bennet2
    4,991
    1,780

    Elizabeth Bennet

    Pride and Prejudice
    Elizabeth Darcy is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She...  more
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  • Jo March3
    3,173
    1,003

    Jo March

    Little Women
    Jo March is a fictional character from the 1868 novel Little Women.T he principal character,...  more
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  • Mary Poppins4
    2,845
    840

    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins series
    Mary Poppins is a fictional character and the protagonist of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins books...  more
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  • Matilda5
    3,223
    950

    Matilda

    Matilda
    Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda....  more
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  • Professor Minerva McGonagall6
    4,327
    720

    Professor Minerva McGonagall

    Harry Potter Universe
    Minerva McGonagall is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series....  more
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  • Jane Eyre7
    2,800
    1,084

    Jane Eyre

    Jane Eyre
    Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name....  more
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  • Scout Finch8
    3,213
    1,106

    Scout Finch

    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird....  more
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  • Alice9
    3,330
    1,419

    Alice

    Alice in Wonderland
    Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas....  more
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  • Éowyn10
    3,030
    1,209

    Éowyn

    The Lord of the Rings
    Éowyn is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, who appears in his most...  more
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  • Hermione Granger11
    7,170
    2,924

    Hermione Granger

    Harry Potter series
    Hermione Jean Granger is a fictional character in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. She...  more
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  • Artemis12
    1,469
    528

    Artemis

    Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
    Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman...  more
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  • Anne Shirley13
    2,313
    682

    Anne Shirley

    Anne of Green Gables
    Anne Shirley is a fictional character introduced in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by...  more
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  • Luna Lovegood14
    4,299
    1,149

    Luna Lovegood

    Harry Potter series
    Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling....  more
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  • Katniss Everdeen15
    4,139
    1,743

    Katniss Everdeen

    The Hunger Games
    Katniss Everdeen is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Hunger Games trilogy by...  more
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  • Dorothy Gale16
    1,902
    817

    Dorothy Gale

    The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
    Dorothy Gale is a fictional character and protagonist of many of the Oz novels by the American...  more
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  • Galadriel17
    1,807
    838

    Galadriel

    The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
    Galadriel is a character created by J.R.R. Tolkien, appearing in his Middle-earth legendarium....  more
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  • Freya18
    1,056
    429

    Freya

    Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen
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  • Molly Weasley19
    2,166
    584

    Molly Weasley

    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
    Molly Weasley (nᅢᄅe Prewett) is a fictional character in the Harry Potter book series written...  more
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  • Daenerys Targaryen20
    2,486
    1,171

    Daenerys Targaryen

    A Song of Ice and Fire
    Game of Thrones
     
    Daenerys Targaryen is a fictional character of the book Game of Thrones....  more
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  • Arwen21
    1,477
    665

    Arwen

    The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
    Arwen Undómiel is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. She appears in his...  more
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  • Arya Stark22
    3,064
    1,190

    Arya Stark

    A Song of Ice and Fire
    Arya Stark is a fictional character created by American author George R. R. Martin. She is a...  more
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  • Scarlett O'Hara23
    1,913
    1,207

    Scarlett O'Hara

    Gone with the Wind
    Scarlett O'Hara is the central character in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind...  more
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  • Aphrodite24
    943
    468

    Theogony

    Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Her Roman...  more
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  • Miss Marple25
    677
    273

    Miss Marple

    Miss Marple: Nemesis, Murder Most Foul
    Jane Marple, usually referred to as Miss Marple, is a fictional character appearing in 12 of...  more
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