Recent debate about what it takes to be a feminist role model has prompted me to reminisce about the female characters that I admired when I was young, and to consider what they might have had in common. These are some of the characters that made me feel like it was good to be intellectual and independent and outspoken:
Anne Edison from The Edison Twins:
As a third grader I was glued to the TV once a week, to watch The Edison Twins. I loved Anne, who, in the company of her twin brother, uses her wits and science savvy to solve mysteries and survive adventures. She is smart, pretty, and adventurous - and I planned to be just like her when I was a big high schooler. I still know all the words to the awesome theme song.
Meg Murry from Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time
Meg is by far the most complicated of my childhood favorite characters - daring but insecure, bright but not always right. She isn't always sweet or even-tempered, nor is she always likable. Although she isn't described as being stereotypically attractive, she gets a love story, but one that adds depth to the story rather than dominating it or defining her.
Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings
Unlike my other heroines, Eowyn herself isn't a nerd. But she was my favorite character in a book admired by nerds world-wide. Also unlike my other childhood heroes, she was described as being beautiful. Yet, I think I loved her for her stubbornness. Oh, and for the fact that she kills the lord of the Nazgul. "No living man am I! You look upon a woman." Is it any wonder I grew up to be a feminist?
Katie from The Girl With the Silver Eyes
What's not to love? Katie is an daring outsider looking for people who she can respect and love. And she has super powers. As a kid, I looked just like the girl on the cover. And I probably had telekinetic powers too. I'm sure they'll show up someday... perhaps with just a bit more practice.
The main similarity in these characters' personalities seems to have been that they were willful. Perhaps every kid likes to imagine a certain independence for themselves. I'd be interested to know what other people's favorite character were - I am the aunt of a couple of book-worms, you know, and future nerds need encouragement.