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The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked

Updated February 21, 2020 205.7k votes 19.7k voters 829.8k 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
    Athena is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    1,827
    519

    Athena

    Odysseus: Voyage to the Underworld
    Alea was an epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, prominent in Arcadian mythology, under which... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 2
    Alice is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    3,293
    1,378

    Alice

    Alice in Wonderland
    Alicia is a fictional character from the 1976 film Alicia en el país de las maravillas.amazon buy button
  • 3
    Matilda is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    3,129
    915

    Matilda

    Matilda
    Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character from the 1996 comedy fantasy film Matilda.amazon buy button
  • 4
    Jo March is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    2,994
    994

    Jo March

    Little Women
    Jo March is a fictional character from the 1868 novel Little Women.T he principal character,... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 5
    Mary Poppins is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    2,735
    794

    Mary Poppins

    Mary Poppins series
    Mary Poppins is a fictional character and the protagonist of P. L. Travers' Mary Poppins books... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 6
    Elizabeth Bennet is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    4,888
    1,784

    Elizabeth Bennet

    Pride and Prejudice
    Elizabeth Darcy is the protagonist in the 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 7
    Scout Finch is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    3,168
    1,082

    Scout Finch

    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Scout Finch is a fictional character from To Kill a Mockingbird.amazon buy button
  • 8
    Professor Minerva McGonagall is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    4,154
    691

    Professor Minerva McGonagall

    Harry Potter Universe
    Minerva McGonagall is a fictional character from Harry Potter literary series.amazon buy button
  • 9
    Artemis is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    1,404
    485

    Artemis

    Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
    Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 10
    Éowyn is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    2,979
    1,213

    Éowyn

    The Lord of the Rings
    Éowyn is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, who appears in his most... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 11
    Jane Eyre is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    2,736
    1,072

    Jane Eyre

    Jane Eyre
    Jane Eyre is the heroine of Charlotte Brontë's 1847 novel of the same name.amazon buy button
  • 12
    Hermione Granger is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    7,077
    3,015

    Hermione Granger

    Harry Potter series
    Hermione Jean Granger is a fictional character in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. She... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 13
    Anne Shirley is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    2,198
    664

    Anne Shirley

    Anne of Green Gables
    Anne Shirley is a fictional character introduced in the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables by... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 14
    Luna Lovegood is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    4,231
    1,141

    Luna Lovegood

    Harry Potter series
    Luna Lovegood is a fictional character from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling.amazon buy button
  • 15
    Dorothy Gale is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    1,812
    779

    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 on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 16
    Galadriel is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    1,774
    823

    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 on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 17
    Katniss Everdeen is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    4,040
    1,769

    Katniss Everdeen

    The Hunger Games
    Katniss Everdeen is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Hunger Games trilogy by... more on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 18
    Freya is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    1,025
    410

    Freya

    Das Rheingold, Der Ring des Nibelungen
    amazon buy button
  • 19
    Molly Weasley is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    2,029
    559

    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...amazon buy button
  • 20
    Arwen is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    1,405
    654

    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 on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 21
    Daenerys Targaryen is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    2,471
    1,147

    Daenerys Targaryen

    A Song of Ice and Fire
    Game of Thrones
     
    amazon buy button
  • 22
    Arya Stark is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    3,039
    1,209

    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 on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 23
    Scarlett O'Hara is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    1,891
    1,201

    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 on Wikipediaamazon buy button
  • 24
    Aphrodite is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    910
    436

    Theogony

    amazon buy button
  • 25
    Miss Marple is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Characters in Literature, Ranked
    619
    239

    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 on Wikipediaamazon buy button
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