Wicked Wednesday: Impressive Fictional Women from the Past

Edith/Maddie here, with our second Wicked Wednesday celebrating the ladies who went before.

Last week we talked about real-life impressive woman from 1950 or before. Today let’s list impressive fictional heroines from books set in the past. Who is your favorite historical female protagonist, and why?

Julie: I am so glad I get to answer this first! Hands down, Amelia Peabody. Who’s with me? I ADORE the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, who was really Barbara Mertz, an Egyptologist. The books start in 1884, and the series ends in 1922-23, during the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. The series has romance, adventure, history, Egyptology, and wonderful characters. Amelia Peabody was partially inspired by real life 1880’s explorer Amelia Edwards, and she’s a funny, fierce, smart and stubborn. I’ve read the series a couple of times, and listened to it a couple of more and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Edith/Maddie: Amelia is fabulous, Julie. I started reading those books because of you! I’m voting for Elizabeth Miles, the con artist in Victoria Thompson’s Counterfeit Lady series. I absolutely love that Elizabeth still runs the occasional Robin Hood con with her father even while doing her best to live a conventional life with her new husband in 1920 New York. She’s a true badass.

Barb: I have to go with my pandemic-related Outlander obsession here and say Claire Fraser. Whether it’s in the modern story, where Claire was born in 1918, or in the time-traveling one, where she lives in the 18th century, she qualifies. World War II combat nurse, triage healer at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745, settler in the western reaches of 18th century North Carolina, or female surgeon in Boston in the 1960s, all make her heroic.

Jessie: I am going to vote for Tuppence Beresford from the Agatha Christie novels. We share a love of hats and I adore her sense of adventure. I also love the way Christie shows her to the reader at different stages in her life, from a Bright Young Thing to a young wife and mother to a middle-aged woman. In many ways I think of her as the person Christie created who feels the most real. She casts her in different roles and with different responsibilities and challenges, but she is always Tuppence at heart. She never loses her spirited nature or her willingness to shake things up. I admire her immensely!

Sherry: I love reading about everyone’s fictional heroines. I have to go with my often mention beloved Betsy Ray from the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. The books start when Betsy is five and continue through her marriage with each book being age appropriate to the reading level of her age. Betsy taught me that it’s okay to blush easily, have weak ankles, scatter commas around, love to read, and to purse a dream of being a writer. She valued friendships and family, loved a man, but also was brave enough to sail around the world when her heart was broken. While she might not be a modern day version of a badass she definitely was for her time.

Readers: Who is your historical fictional heroine?

41 Thoughts

  1. I think you all just introduced some new and exciting books to me! Thanks!

  2. My choice is Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Set in the late 19th century, Anne is a fiery red-headed orphan sent to live with the elderly Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert in Prince Edward Island. Anne is spunky, smart, and brings joy to both her new family in Green Gables, and the community. I also remember watching the Anne of Green Gables mini-series on CBC-TV in the 1980s.

    1. Over 50 million books have been sold but Anne of Green Gables is really popular in Japan. I always found it odd that it was compulsory reading for schoolchildren there and not in Canada where the books are set. I visited Cavendish PEI, the site of the real Anne of Green Gables house, and there were hundreds of Japanese tourists there. it is a mecca for them.

      1. EDITH: Me, too, I have not read Anne in over 40 years. And Montgomery wrote other Anne books chronicling her early adult years in Avonlea. But it’s the first book that resonates with me.

      2. Grace, I’ve read all of the Anne books and the first one is definitely the best and most memorable for me. I should re-read it – it’s been a long time.

  3. I’m with Jessie — Tuppence Beresford was a favorite of Agatha Christie, and the series is often overlooked by readers.

  4. I’m with Julie! Amelia Peabody was my introduction to historical mysteries…and is still a favorite.

  5. I agree with Julie! I love Amelia Peabody — she’s intelligent, strong, independent, and loves her family. A close second for me is Sarah Brandt in the Gaslight series by Victoria Thompson. Because of her wealthy family, she could have lived the easy life. But she became a midwife and goes into the tenements of turn-of-the-century New York to help women who have no access to medical care.

  6. I, too, love Elizabeth Miles. However, I think my favorite historical fictional character is Rose Carroll from the Quaker Midwife Mystery series. She’s devout in her faith, but she most definitely stands up for what she believes in and what’s right plus she will to stand by those that are being taken advantage of or are hurting.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  7. Jane Marple is at the top of my list. I’m also a fan of Catriona McPherson’s Dandy Gilver and L.A. Chandlar’s Lane Stone. All intrepid investigators!

  8. Kinsey Milhone, V.I. Warshawski, and Stephanie Plum, all great private eyes with fantastic voices. I also like Mary Russell from Laurie R. King’s Holmes pastiches. Blanche White from Barbara Neeley’s great and groundbreaking series is near the top of my list. I also enjoy Carrie McFarland from Carolyn Marie Wilkins’s historical paranormal mystery series.

  9. Loved reading this. Thanks! I know and love some of these and now have some new reading ideas too. And a loud shoutout for Betsy Ray! Love those books.For me, firmly imprinted on my brain at a ridiculously early age- Jo March. No one ever came close. (All right, she is a teenager and I am now -mmm-years old, in a much different world, but she made the biggest impression on my young mind for sure)

  10. I am with Barb – Claire Frasier is definately a kick ass heroine. Although there are also many other admirable and Kick ass women mentioned!

  11. Charlotte Pitt from Anne Perry’s Thomas andr Charlotte Pitt series, Jane Marple of Christie’s books, and my all time favorite Anne Shirley. I’ve
    read all of those books frequently.

  12. I’m going with my two standbys – Mrs. Pollifax and Trixie Belden. One is aimed at middle grade readers, but Trixie tackles whatever her latest mystery is between chores while never doubting herself even if everyone around her does.

    Then there’s Mrs. Pollifax, who somehow goes into the world of spies and comes out the other side against overwhelming odds and makes it look like a walk in the park.

  13. I’ve read at least some, if not all, of most of these book series and agree with all the choices. I would add Nancy Drew because she was my introduction to amateur sleuths and I always wanted to BE her. (I admit, it may have also been because she didn’t have a controlling mother!)

  14. I have to cast another vote for Jane Marple. Yes, Christie’s characters are a little two-dimensional. But Jane Marple showed it was possible to be sharp, intelligent, observant and solve murders all while knitting a baby afghan. And honestly, I think her outlook on people is even darker than Poirot’s!

  15. a fun post today. that is a tough question. I am always coming up with a new favorite heroine. like Isadora Delafield from Flights of Fancy (American Heiresses – 1) by Jen Turano she is smart, pretty, witty, and full of life and humor. She is willing to try something new and doesnt know the phrase “give up”
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  16. You all have named so many of my favorites. I’ll add Molly Murphy, creation of Rhys Bowen and now co-authored with her daughter Clare Broyles. Also, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs. I do love smart, brave, determined women.

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