What better way to round off Women’s History Month than to highlight stories all about female empowerment? The books I consume feature no shortage of powerful women, whether fictional or real. These women are warriors who walk with a purpose. They break boundaries, lift each other up and aren’t afraid to show the world who’s boss, not unlike Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton or any others who have fought for women’s rights in the past.
Here are a few books with female protagonists that never cease to amaze:
“These Shallow Graves”
This piece of historical fiction revolves around the life of Josephine Montfort, an aspiring journalist living under the societal constructs of 19th century New York. Even her name asserts the power men hold over her life. She is expected to stay away from the investigation of her father’s murder and take on the prim and proper role of a wife of the town’s most eligible bachelor. Yet Jo craves a life in the newsroom, sneaking off at night and making acquaintance with sketchy figures to get the scoop. She is defiance at its finest, proving to her family that she can do anything a man can.
“The Hunger Games”
Of course, we all know and love Katniss Everdeen for her archery skills and vast botanical knowledge. She is the breadwinner for her family, and I look to her in admiration for taking her sister’s place at the reaping while Peeta’s brothers stood in silent cowardice. She is bold and brilliant, showing the gamemakers she’s not to be underestimated just because she’s a girl from a shoddy district. Most notably, Katniss is kind of a grouch. She has a sullen temperament and can’t quite love the way Peeta loves her, things generally seen as unbecoming for a woman. Yet, it is this unwillingness to fit in a box that enables her to survive.
I read this series in middle school, so I don’t remember much, but I know there should be more female protagonists like Maximum Ride. Max is fairly young at the start of the series, with an already headstrong personality, determined to protect her flock and find out where they came from. The series doesn’t adhere to traditional gender roles; instead, Max is the leader of the flock. Even more attractive is the utter lack of romance. It’s present toward the end, but never fully motivates Max or inhibits the story from what it is: a tale full of adventure and finding one’s identity.
Those are just some of the strong female characters out there. If you’re into memoirs, every one written by a woman features some sort of hurdle they’ve faced and more often than not, their path to overcome it. “Spilled Milk,” a self-published book that blew up on TikTok tells the story of a child’s escape from domestic violence. Tara Westover’s “Educated” depicts her journey to college after being born to a family of survivalists in Idaho. Malala Yousafzai recounts her story of standing up against the Taliban in “I am Malala.”
There is no shortage of women who are oppressed, and no shortage of women who rise up anyway, living to tell their tale. If you are a woman, the very act of writing a story is empowering in itself, no matter the contents, when not too long ago, the Brontë sisters penned classics under male pseudonyms.
Surrounding yourself with reads that empower women instead of letting them succumb to expectations can develop a confident mindset and encourage fellow women to take strides of their own.