A couple of weeks ago I posted a list of movies that feature women who showcase their femininity in different, inspiring ways, and I wanted to do the same with books! Of course, there are so many books I could talk about, but I’ll try to keep this relatively short. If you have any others, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
// Pygmalion by Bernard Shaw (a play)
// The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow
// The novels of Jane Austen
// The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
// A Vicarage Family by Noel Streatfeild (a fictionalised autobiography)
What these stories have in common is a transformation, however, the main change – perhaps other than Pygmalion – is the change that occurs on the inside. The Other Bennet Sister is a recent release that follows Mary, the “plain” sister from Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. This is one of my favourite books, as we see how Mary first becomes the quiet, hidden sister, and then as she grows into her own and accepts who she is. She realizes she has something to offer and begins to show her real self to those around her.
While I love Jane Austen’s novels for the romance, it is always accompanied by character development. The lead women in these novels all must overcome some sort of character flaw or fear in order to move forward in relationships and to find contentment. Emma is a most dislikeable character; she is prideful and mocks those beneath her but must make these things right in order to be happy. Or Catherine, in Northanger Abbey, who must overcome her childish imagination and accusations in order to grow into the woman she needs to be.
// Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
// North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
// Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
// Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
// A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The women in these novels are all firm in what they believe and do not change themselves for those around them. They retain what is unique to them even when it is costly. (Though it does always pay off in the end – because we love a happy ending.) Sara Crew from A Little Princess is poorly treated as a slave yet continues to be kind and shares joy wherever she can. Despite her circumstances she remains to be a lovely girl who is not bitter, resentful or angry. She continues to find hope and invites others into her warm spirit. So often, feminine beauty can be found in that sweet forgiveness and in having a heart that doesn’t let offence take hold.
Anne (of Green Gables) is the most genuine, heartwarming character I know. She is so appreciative for the world around her and finds joy in life. She is stubborn, and learns many difficult lessons, but grows into a young woman who again, offers kindness and joy to others. She is unashamed in what she loves and doesn’t change herself to fit in with the world around her. This strength in knowing who she is serves her well and gives her true, solid, lasting relationships.
I’ll also briefly touch upon the four girls in Little Women. Each are different, yet all are feminine and beautiful. All have different things to offer the world, and when each of them does, the world around them is better. Again, I love how each of the March sisters is flawed and needs to overcome obstacles to be the women they want to be. None of them are perfect, and none of them pretend to be. Yet they try to be better; Jo strives to overcome her temper and Meg learns to be unashamed of her circumstances. The four sisters are such good examples of how every woman is different and has unique goals, interests, and gifts, yet all accept and offer their femininity.
// Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (an autobiography)
For something slightly different, I thought I’d put the autobiography of Jennifer Worth on this list. Telling of her own life as a midwife in the 1950’s, Jennifer Worth showcases what it is to be hardworking, attentive, and caring. The circumstances were not always pleasant, yet Jennifer treats her patients with kindness and dedication. Being feminine does not mean being weak, or dumbing yourself down, or being less than others, and Jennifer Worth showcases this strength, intelligence, and the quality of her character as she does what is right and helps people through her profession.
What is worth noting is how wholesome and heartwarming these books are. The stories I enjoy rereading are the ones that speak to femininity. The women in these books are smart, capable, usually stubborn, and can look after themselves, yet are lovely, kind, and hopeful, highlighting that being feminine is not a weakness, but a strength. Being feminine does not mean you can’t be intelligent, or stand up for yourself, or be independent. These women go on lots of adventures! And without giving up their femininity.
Again, there are so many books I could have put on this list. If you have more, I would love to hear about them in the comments!