One of my personal tests to determine whether a book heroine is “timeless” is if you, as a reader, remember her name, not just what she did.
For some of our most beloved female protagonists we even know the last name: Sara Crewe, Kit Tyler, Christy Huddleston, Jo March, Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls, Lucy Pevensie. Mary Lennox, Maria Merryweather, Fern Arable and Charlotte the Spider. I feel as if I know these characters.
As my daughter Rachel says, “They are like real people that I have in my cell phone contact list. I feel as if I could call them up to ask them for advice”.
Fiery-tempered, imaginative Anne (“with an e”) of Anne of Green Gables finds what her hearts longs for -belonging in her adopted family and community. She wins the life-long friendship of Diana, whom she calls her “bosom friend”. We watch Anne grow up and see her find her unique beauty, her intelligence, and her place in the world. If Anne can do it, so can I.
Mary Lennox, the main character in The Secret Garden, is drawn by a mixture of compassion and curiosity to discover the sufferer secreted away deep inside the manor house: “The door of her room was ajar and the sound came down the corridor, a far-off faint sound of fretful crying… She felt as is she must find out what it was… The corridor looked very long and dark, but she was too excited to mind that. So she went on with her dim light, almost feeling her way, her heart beating so loud that she fancied she could hear it.” This young girl becomes the agent of restoration for a sick child and an entire household; not just a garden. How about us? Aren’t we restorers too?
Christy Huddleston (Christy by Catherine Marshall) exhibits kindness, mixed with determined bravery as she leaves behind her citified, comfortable life to teach destitute children in the Appalachian Mountains. What a culture shock she faces, but Christy rises to the challenge and grows into a mature young woman who changes Cutter Gap. I am destined to change the world like Christy.
Hannah, my youngest child, loves Lucy Pevensie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because Lucy is the youngest sibling and yet sees with eyes of faith and doesn’t doubt. In later adventures, Lucy sees Aslan when no one else can.
We may have missed certain books during our growing up years, or perhaps read them with only half our attention. It’s not too late; we can go back and scoop them up again. If we didn’t get enough faith, hope, kindness, purity, courage, and destiny in our youth, it is all still waiting for us in these tales of inspiring fictional characters. Sharing these nourishing books with our daughters and granddaughters makes them come alive again for us.
I have never read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin or Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink. My 13-year-old friend, Emma, tells me Heidi by Johanna Spyri is a must-read also. So I have some catching up to do! Which girl heroines live in your heart? Drop me a comment and let me know.
My Top Ten in alphabetical order:
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (wonderful illustrator – Garth Williams)
Christy by Catherine Marshall
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (best illustrator – Tasha Tudor)
The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (best illustrator Tasha Tudor)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare