11 Inspiring Single Ladies From Books
by Melissa Ragsdale
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With Valentine's Day (a.k.a. Singles Appreciation Day) coming up, love is in the air. And I know I'm supposed to be all down about how there are paper hearts and cutesy couples everywhere. But I'm not, because the truth is that I love being single and having the space to carve out the life I want for myself on my terms. But you don't have to take my word for it. Just look at these amazing, kickass single ladies from literature.

If you take a second to look around, you'll realize that there aren't nearly enough single women in the literary canon. While you can find plenty of books about men in which love is not a factor, it's much harder to find a book about a woman that doesn't have a romantic element. I — as a woman whose romantic life certainly does not come first —  am eager to see this trend get smashed (along with the patriarchy that produced it). After all, my life has so much more to it than love and romance. I want a life filled with adventure—if a Significant Other happens to be a part of that, then that's great. But it's not all there is for a woman. I want more reading that reflects that.

And let's face it, single ladies get stuff done. The women on this list are champions, go-getters, forces to be reckoned with. Nobody can hold them back. So let's celebrate these rad heroines as they show us how amazing being single can be.


Miss Marple from the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie


Who doesn't want to grow up to be a badass detective? This hero from the works of Agatha Christie is wicked smart, and she constantly upends the (often condescending) expectations of those around her. That's the kind of older woman I want to be.

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Brienne of Tarth from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin


Brienne is the definition of badass. Though her heart's been trampled on, she is fiercely loyal, immensely courageous, and determined AF. Her strength is something everyone ought to admire.

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Aaliyah from 'An Unnecessary Woman' by Rabih Alameddine

OK, there's no way you could convince me that Aaliyah's life translating books in Beirut isn't the dream. Even though she gets a ton of pushback from her family and her community for being a recluse, her refusal to cater to the expectations of society is so inspiring.

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Susan from the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

A governess, then a school teacher, and the granddaughter of Death himself, Susan is not one to be trifled with. She has amazing hair that moves of its own accord and a magical voice that strikes fear into everyone's hearts, yet she's kindhearted and has friends of literally all shapes and sizes. She's fiercely independent, and she always knows what she wants and how to get it.

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Kel from the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce

This heroine from Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small quartet isn't going to let anything (or anyone) slow her down. Kel is the first woman to legally become a knight, and she demonstrates the importance of girl power.

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Emma from 'Emma' by Jane Austen

Even though Emma Woodhouse eventually gets with someone, her misadventures playing matchmaker show how delightfully powerful being single can be. High-spirited and "slightly spoiled," Emma deftly spins all the drama around her, fixing up people left and right while remaining unattached. If she lived in modern times, she would definitely have her own reality TV show.

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Ella from 'Bright Lines' by Tanwi Nandini Islam

Throughout this amazing book, Ella grapples with her own identity. What makes this book truly beautiful is that we get to see Ella experiment and question what she wants, without being tied down.

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Constance Kopp from 'Girl Waits with Gun' by Amy Stewart

In Girl Waits With A Gun, Constance and her sisters are single in the 1900s, a time when it's scandalous to be unmarried. But Constance has no time for the pressures of society, and she and her sisters embark on a dangerous mission to put gangsters behind bars. (The best part is that the Kopps were real women!).

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Miss Jean Brodie from 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' by Muriel Spark

The charismatic spinster at the center of this 1961 Muriel Spark novel intends to enjoy every ounce of her single life. Determined to give her students a full and radical cultural education, Miss Jean Brodie's spirit is proof that singlehood is full of exciting opportunities.

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Li-lin from 'The Girl with Ghost Eyes' by M.H. Boroson

Widowhood has its own long history of its own stigma, and there are tons of novels about widowed women finding new love. But Li-lin takes that stigma and smashes it to pieces when she dives into the shifty world of ghosts and gangsters in 19th century San Francisco.

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Sula from 'Sula' by Toni Morrison

While her childhood friend, Nel, settles down with a husband and children, Sula goes off to lead an independent life, shrugging off societal conventions. Sula's fierce quest for independence, sexual freedom, and strength in the face of scorn are part of what make this classic so powerful.

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