12 Fictional Feminist Heroines Who Persisted

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During a Tuesday filibuster, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was silenced by Senate Republicans, whose leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said: "She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted." #ShePersisted has become a feminist mantra, and so it only seems fitting that we take a look at books with feminist heroines who persisted, just like Elizabeth Warren.

The Tuesday filibuster saw Senate Democrats speaking out against Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Donald Trump's pick for Attorney General. Warren used her turn to speak to read from Coretta Scott King's 1986 letter opposing Sessions' appointment as a federal judge, which reads, in part: "Mr. Sessions' conduct as U.S. Attorney, from his politically-motivated voting fraud prosecutions to his indifference toward criminal violation of civil rights laws, indicates that he lacks the temperament, fairness and judgement to be a federal judge [sic]." You can read the letter in full here.

After silencing Warren, Senate Republicans went on to allow three male senators — Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tom Udall (D-NM) — to read from the letter without incident. Warren finished reading Coretta Scott King's statement in a Facebook Live video that has garnered over six million views.

In the hours since McConnell said it of Warren, #ShePersisted has become a feminist mantra. On Twitter, the hashtag has been used to caption images of Bree Newsome, Rosa Parks, Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Ruby Bridges, Sonia Sotomayor, Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), Ibtihaj Muhammad, and Mae Jemison, among others.

If you're looking to ride this high with some books about badass women — And why wouldn't you be? — check out the 12 titles I've picked out for you below. Obviously, this list is nothing close to exhaustive, so be sure to share your favorite books with feminist heroines who persisted with me on Twitter!


'Their Eyes Were Watching God' by Zora Neale Hurston

This classic novel from Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston tracks heroine Janie Crawford's evolution from a trod-upon young girl into a vibrant, self-determined woman.

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'In the Time of the Butterflies' by Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez's historical novel tells the story of the four Mirabal sisters, who opposed Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, and were later assassinated for their dissent.

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'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker

In The Color Purple, two sisters spend decades writing letters to one another, each unsure of whether the other is alive.

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'Warriors Don't Cry' by Melba Pattillo Beals

Melba Beals was just 16 years old when she and eight of her friends — collectively known as "the Little Rock Nine" — were chosen to integrate Little Rock, Arkansas' Central High School in 1957.

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'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood

A hostile coup in the U.S. has stripped Offred of her name, her family, her property, and all of her basic human rights, but she doesn't intend to let the bastards grind her down.

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'Allegedly' by Tiffany D. Jackson

Mary spent her childhood and adolescence living in juvenile detention. Now she's pregnant, and the state wants to take her unborn child because of a crime she allegedly committed when she was only nine years old.

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'Falling Leaves' by Adeline Yen Mah

In Falling Leaves, Adeline Yen Mah recounts the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father and stepmother in the years before the Cultural Revolution.

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'Hidden Figures' by Margot Lee Shetterly

The West Area Computers at Langley Research Center helped to put a man into orbit, but the story of these fiercely intelligent black women was largely forgotten before Margot Lee Shetterly's microhistory, Hidden Figures, was published in 2016.

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'Half Broke Horses' by Jeannette Walls

In this historical novel, Jeannette Walls introduces us to her grandmother, Lily: a Texan girl who learns to break horses, works as a schoolteacher, runs a cattle ranch, and more.

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'The House on Mango Street' by Sandra Cisneros

Esperanza Cordero is determined to escape her impoverished Chicago neighborhood, but she doesn't want to leave behind those who cannot get out on their own.

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'The Bonesetter's Daughter' by Amy Tan

Ruth arranges to have her elderly immigrant mother's autobiography translated from Chinese into English, but she doesn't expect the twists and turns that Lu Ling's story takes.

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'I Am Malala' by Malala Yousafzai

In 2012, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot by an operant for daring to go to school in the Taliban-controlled Swat Valley. It wasn't the first time she had dared to resist terrorists, and it wouldn't be the last.

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