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The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked

Updated February 21, 2020 204.8k votes 21.1k voters 881.7k 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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  • 1
    1,908
    654

    Athena

    Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld
    Alea was an epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, prominent in Arcadian mythology, under which...  more
  • 2
    4,936
    1,744

    Elizabeth Bennet

    Pride and Prejudice
    Elizabeth Darcy is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She...  more
  • 3
    3,176
    1,002

    Jo March

    Little Women
    Jo March is a fictional character from the 1868 novel Little Women.T he principal character,...  more
  • 4
    3,190
    945

    Matilda

    Matilda
    Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda....  more
  • 5
    7,065
    2,840

    Hermione Granger

    Harry Potter series
    Hermione Jean Granger is a fictional character in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. She...  more
  • 6
    2,750
    1,068

    Jane Eyre

    Jane Eyre
    Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name....  more
  • 7
    2,805
    842

    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins series
    Mary Poppins is a fictional character and the protagonist of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins books...  more
  • 8
    4,299
    704

    Professor Minerva McGonagall

    Harry Potter Universe
    Minerva McGonagall is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series....  more
  • 9
    3,258
    1,399

    Alice

    Alice in Wonderland
    Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas....  more
  • 10
    3,161
    1,081

    Scout Finch

    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird....  more
  • 11
    1,476
    525

    Artemis

    Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
    Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman...  more
  • 12
    2,997
    1,175

    Éowyn

    The Lord of the Rings
    Éowyn is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, who appears in his most...  more
  • 13
    2,291
    662

    Anne Shirley

    Anne of Green Gables
    Anne Shirley is a fictional character introduced in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by...  more
  • 14
    4,243
    1,118

    Luna Lovegood

    Harry Potter series
    Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling....  more
  • 15
    4,089
    1,701

    Katniss Everdeen

    The Hunger Games
    Katniss Everdeen is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Hunger Games trilogy by...  more
  • 16
    1,875
    813

    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
  • 17
    1,786
    821

    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
  • 18
    1,053
    428

    Freya

    Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen
  • 19
    2,146
    575

    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
  • 20
    1,459
    656

    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
  • 21
    2,448
    1,155

    Daenerys Targaryen

    A Song of Ice and Fire
    Game of Thrones
     
    Daenerys Targaryen is a fictional character of the book Game of Thrones....  more
  • 22
    3,012
    1,163

    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
  • 23
    1,888
    1,189

    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
  • 24
    1,719
    601

    Nancy Drew

    Nancy Drew series
    Nancy Drew is a fictional character from the 2011 film My Sucky Teen Romance....  more
  • 25
    936
    472

    Theogony

    Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Her Roman...  more