Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is #beboldforchange, and here at the library we heartily agree. We can and should be advocates for thoughtful, positive change for all members of our communities, and women play a strong role in many spheres of change. The library has all kinds of inspiration in the form of women, fictional and non-fictional, who motivated change in their own lives or the lives of others. Here are ten of our very favorites.
Parks and Rec, Leslie Knope: Working for a city is not an easy thing. And yet there is Leslie Knope with her indefatigable optimism and her deep love of Pawnee, Indiana. She’s ambitious and driven and willing to do the hard things to make her department the very best. And she’s funny. Very, very funny.
Code Name Verity, Maddie and Julie: Maddie is a pilot, Julie is a spy, both are thrown into the dangers of World War II resisting the advance of the Third Reich. They are brave and sometimes brash, and their story is an unconventional tale of female friendship.
The Help, Aibileen: Haven’t we all had rough days when we wished we had someone to tell us Aibileen’s mantra, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Aibileen is one of my favorite fictional heroines because even in the face of such injustice she was bold and she inspired change by telling the truth and lifting up the people around her. The Help is a fantastic book full of inspiring characters, but Aibileen is by far my favorite.
Little Women, Jo: Of course, Jo. There are many English majors on our team, and who among us hasn’t been inspired by the fiercely independent and dangerously smart Jo March. Jo gives smart girls permission to be smart out loud, and that is a favor to women everywhere.
Whale Rider, Pai: Whale Rider is a beautiful film with a powerful young woman at the center of it. Pai just wants to be useful to her community and loved by her grandfather, but centuries of tradition threaten to thwart her destiny. It’s only her willingness to give everything for her people that reveals her as the leader she’s meant to be.
Anne of Green Gables, Marilla: At the beginning of this series, you kind of wonder if Marilla is a friend or a foe. Stern and suspicious of Anne, over time she becomes essentially the mother Anne never had, providing her comfort and stability, and expressing enormous pride for her girl. She embodies the way that women step in and help each other, and we could all use a little more of that.
Brave, Merida: First, I must confess that for me, Merida made this list because of her gorgeous crown of unruly curls. Us curly girls gotta stick together. But she also made this list because she’s a young woman determined both to forge her own destiny, and to be accountable for the mistakes she makes along the way.
Lark Rise to Candleford, Dorcas Lane: I love Dorcas Lane, even when she’s being so utterly flawed that you kind of want to kick her in the shins. She’s ahead of her time–a woman running the post during the Victorian age just wasn’t done. She’s also deeply committed to her friends and her community, and serves as a mentor to more than one young woman in her sphere of influence.
Daughter of Fortune, Eliza: Eliza is an orphan in Victorian Chile, left to be raised by a proper Englishwoman and her brother. When her lover flees to the California Gold Rush, Eliza follows and spends the next decade playing piano in brothels and living in disguise as she looks for her first love. In looking for him, she finds something far more valuable–a clear sense of herself.
Maya Angelou: Raised by her grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas, the survivor of a brutal sexual assault in her childhood, and a single mother by the age of sixteen, Angelou could have become just another victim of circumstance. Instead she became a poet, memoirist, civil rights advocate, and one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. She wrote a poem in the late 70s titled “Phenomenal Woman.” Phenomenal woman, indeed.