27 TV Heroines From The '90s Who Were The Best Feminist Role Models Ever

Warner Bros. TV

Into every generation is born a slayer... if you are lucky. If you are extra lucky, you get a slayer, a warrior princess, a scientist, a girl who can explain it all, and an animated guardian who saves the Earth while rocking some amazing ponytails. If those descriptions sound familiar to you, there's a good reason for that: I've just exclusively described heroines from famous '90s shows. Yeah, people who grew up in the '90s were extra lucky.

In '90s shows, there were women who saved the world, women who stood up to bullies, women who taught us all how to adult, and so many other amazing TV characters who defined a generation of young feminists. These fictional ladies taught their fans so much about being girls, women, and heroes. From Buffy and Xena to Clarissa and Daria, there was at least one TV woman out there for everyone.

These characters inspired viewers and changed the '90s for the better. They made TV not just a safe place, but an empowering place where anything was possible and there was no limit to what a '90s girl could do. In short, these slayers, princesses, and everyday women changed the world. A lot.

1. Buffy Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Buffy Summers slayed vampires and grappled with growing up — and she did it all in heels. Her life was never easy, but her drive and her belief in her power gave the '90s a heroine whose world-saving prowess was never in doubt.

Warner Bros. TV

2. Dana Scully (The X-Files)

Dana Scully was so many things: A woman of a science, a skeptic, a loyal partner. She followed Mulder into the darkness, but she was ultimately the one who was there to provide the series with its brilliant light.

20th Century Fox Television

3. Daria Morgendorffer (Daria)

This grunge queen made being brilliant and emo cool. Daria was the patron saint of disaffected youths who just wanted to read cool books, eat pizza, and escape to the freedom of college.


4. Moesha Mitchell (Moesha)

Cool, smart, and committed to her family, Moesha dealt with teenage life like a total champ. Whether she was adjusting to having a new stepmother or dealing with high school crushes, Moesha always stayed true to herself.

Paramount Domestic Television

5. Topanga Lawrence (Boy Meets World)

Confidence, thy name is Topanga. Few characters have been so secure in who they are and what they want out of life, but Topanga made it look effortless. Knowing she achieved all her goals only makes the character more of a heroine.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television

6. Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess)

Xena's battle cry is what power sounds like. Through her adventures and strength, Xena made being a princess and a warrior seem totally doable.

Universal Television

7. Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons)

The world's oldest eight-year-old has been a feminist icon and a shining example of why smart is cool for 20 years and counting.

20th Television

8. Clarissa Darling (Clarissa Explains It All)

Growing up in the '90s would have been so much more difficult without Clarissa's sage advice and unique fashion sense to guide the way.


9. Phoebe Buffay (Friends)

Phoebe's childhood was a total mess. She was even homeless for a while. But, she grew up to be an amazing, self-assured badass who never let anyone tell her what she couldn't do.

Warner Bros. TV

10. Shelby Woo (The Mystery Files Of Shelby Woo)

Before Veronica Mars, the teenage super sleuth everyone was obsessed with was Shelby Woo. There was no case she couldn't solve, and no lengths she wouldn't go to when someone needed help.


11. Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon)

Usagi started out as a somewhat spoiled young girl who only thought about herself before she matured into a princess who saved the world. Her awesomeness is legendary.

Toei Animation

12. Roseanne Conner (Roseanne)

Roseanne proved with her quick wit and unapologetic brashness that working class moms deserved serious respect.

SFM Entertainment

13. Alex Mack (The Secret World Of Alex Mack)

Doused with a mysterious chemical that gave her superpowers, Alex subverted all expectations by continuing to be a normal middle school kid — with a big secret. In the process, she became one of TV's most relatable teens as she ignored gender norms and made it OK to struggle with growing up.


14. Ashley Spinelli (Recess)

Speaking of subverting gender norms, Spinelli was the tough as nails playground heroine everyone wanted to be best friends with.

Buena Vista Television

15. Susie Carmichael (Rugrats)

Before Susie came along, the babies often found themselves at the mercy of Angelica. When Susie joined their group they gained someone who stood up to bullies and had an imagination as big as they did.


16. Lois Lane (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman)

Teri Hatcher's Lois was a brilliant journalist who was both good at her job and the kind of person who could stand toe to toe with Superman.

Warner Bros. TV

17. Angela Chase (My So-Called Life)

Being a heroine does not make someone perfect. In fact, it was Angela's imperfections that made her a beloved, influential TV character. She didn't have many things figured out, but she still managed to make an entire generation feel less alone.

ABC Productions

18. Kimberly Hart (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers)

The Pink Power Ranger could have been written off as a joke, but Kimberly proved you could love "girly" things, be a gymnast, and save the world on the regular.

Saban Entertainment

19. Joey Potter (Dawson's Creek)

This girl next door refused to be put into a box. Joey was complicated, determined, and stubborn. She defied expectations at every turn and became a fan favorite in the process.

Warner Bros. Television

20. Ellen Morgan (Ellen)

Ellen broke down barriers when her character came out as a lesbian. She became an icon, and a heroine for a decade of change.

Disney–ABC Domestic Television

21. Maggie O'Connell (Northern Exposure)

One of the most unapologetically feminist characters to ever hit the small screen, Maggie was a bush pilot who was book smart and always up for a debate. Watching her on TV each week was like hanging out with your smartest friend.

Universal Television

22. Elisa Maza (Gargoyles)

Elisa was an NYPD detective who delved into a supernatural world in hopes of fostering understanding between humans and gargoyles. She also kicked a truly insane amount of butt.

Walt Disney Television Animation

23. Lisa Turtle (Saved By The Bell)

Lisa was a fashionista with a big heart who managed to stand out in a cast full of iconic characters. Her passion for design was major inspiration fuel for '90s kids.

CBS Television Distribution

24. Nona F. Mecklenburg (The Adventures Of Pete & Pete)

Anyone who wears a cast because they enjoy how it itches and wants to change their middle name to Forklift is instantly going to leave a lasting impression.


25. Jessica Fletcher (Murder, She Wrote)

Jessica was retirement goals before retirement goals were a thing. Sure, Murder, She Wrote is a show you likely watched with your grandmother, but Jessica's enduring sense of awesome left its mark on you.

NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution

26. Sabrina Spellman (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch)

Every generation needs a sassy witch, and Sabrina more than filled the role for '90s kids.

CBS Television Distribution

27. Michelle Tanner (Full House)

You got it, dude! No list of '90s TV heroines would be complete without the pint-sized Michelle, who during the series destroyed a museum dinosaur, ran Disney World for a day, and (probably) coined more catchphrases than any other TV character in history. Michelle will always be the number one Tanner for the '90s generation.

Warner Bros. TV