23: Top 5 literary heroines


Becky Graham

Co-host of the podcast Your Own Words.

Mark is joined by one half of the literary podcast Your Own Words, voracious reader and Danish furniture fan, Becky Graham, to swap notes on badass women from the printed page.

A “sincere” apology

The first discussion topic caused both guest and presenter to embark on a number of attempts at Irish accents. These were not successful, and all parties apologise for the inconvenience.

This episode contains a few naughty words (mostly the same word, but said a lot).

Becky’s list

In order of discussion:

Maureen O’Hara

Becky’s first pick is a Hollywood actor who co-wrote and co-starred in The Quiet Man, and was blacklisted for not sleeping with execs in order to get parts. If you take her at her word — and why wouldn’t you? — she also approached Walt Disney with a view to making Mary Poppins with her in the lead role, a proposition which Disney turned down before apparently going off to make it with Julie Andrews. She also owned a fleet of aircraft, so there’s that.

Matilda Wormwood

There’s very little not to like about Matilda, the titular star of Roald Dahl’s children’s story, who taught herself telekinesis and devised ingenious ways to mess with her ignorant family members.

Miss Marple

Not unlike one of Mark’s picks, Marple plays up to others’ perceptions of her as being a doddery old woman, but her keen intellect and self-assuredness invariably wins the day.

Lucy Pevensie

The youngest sibling of the Chronicles of Narnia family is a favourite of Becky’s because of her bravery, kindness, and her unwillingness to be shoved aside.

Elizabeth Bennet

The protagonist of Pride and Prejudice married for love and not for status, and didn’t allow other people to make decisions for her. For Becky, she’s an example of knowing who you are and what you want, which was a rare thing to read as a women in the 19th century, much less to write.

Mark’s picks

In order of discussion:

Lisbeth Salander

Mark’s first pick is a badass with a motorbike, a photographic memory and a head full of code. He was introduced to her via The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and quickly identified with this woman who opted out of social convention but is guided by a strong sense of justice, which she meats out without remorselessly.

Granny Weatherwax

The straight woman in the Discworld double-act that is Weatherwax and Ogg, she is the kind of woman who “has no truck” with things. She also has a mean poker face.

_Artwork by SlowhandManjam _

Arya Stark

One of only a handful of female characters within the Game of Thrones universe with any degree of agency, Arya fights against the perceptions of her gender, and then fights anyone else that’ll take her on.

Clarice Starling

The lead character in The Silence of the Lambs makes Mark’s list as a solid, powerful, human character. Her story is less about surviving in a man’s world, and more about getting the job done and catching the bad guys.

Zoey Ashe

Mark’s final pick is the protagonist from David Wong’s Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a snarky young woman with a cat called Stink Machine and no time for any of this bullshit.

Artwork by guttersblessing

More of Becky Graham

You can find Becky co-hosting the podcast Your Own Words, with Allison Dunnings, and you can follow them show on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.