Monday, 18 May 2015

Strong women

I understand the Mens Rights Association is up in arms about the presence of a strong female character in the latest Mad Max film. I thought I'd annoy them more by pointing out that strong female characters aren't new to the 21st century, just to show Charlize Therion's Furiosa is not a new phenomenon.

There are some very well-known strong characters, like Buffy, Xena, Ripley and Emma Peel – I've tried to pick out a few others who deserve more visibility than they currently get.

I'll start with Worrals – a female pilot I've mentioned previously in this blog. For the '40s, almost a revolutionary figure.

Then we have Cathy Gale. An Avenger before Marvel purloined the name, Honor Blackman's character was the first strong female character I know of on TV, and laid the groundwork for her successor, Emma Peel.

Still in British '60s TV, we have Sharon Macready of The Champions, another strong female character, with superpowers no less, well before Wonder Woman turned up on the small screen. Sharon wasn't always particularly well-served by the scripts, but with a good scriptwriter she was a force to be reckoned with.


I have a fondness for pilots, so I can't resist putting Destiny Angel into this list.


Doctor Who has a number of strong female characters (but also a fair number of not-so strong ones). I'm choosing Leela for this list simply because Louise Jameson's intelligent savage is the most obviously kick-ass of the Doctor's companions (again, when she has a good scriptwriter – some didn't know how to write for her, but others gave her exceptionally good scenes).


I'm also going to mention Sarah Kingdom, who appeared more than ten years before Leela, and is contemporary with Emma Peel – another strong female character who first turns up in Doctor Who setting out to kill the Doctor! Again, for her time she was a surprisingly strong and capable female figure. Unfortunately, most of her episodes are lost.


Next in my collection is Telzey Amberdon. An extraordinarily powerful psychic, physically fit, genius level intelligence – a very capable hero of her own novels, without a male lead in sight. James Schmitz wrote a number of strong female characters – Trigger McGee is another good example – but Telzey is the best, in my opinion.


I'm going to finish, unashamedly, with Sorrel Cheldaniss, the pilot heroine of my own novels. Sorrel is another female lead who can act for herself, who does not need a male lead to rescue her, and who is capable and competent without being a superhero. Yes, I know she's more recent, but I'm indulging myself!

 I've had to miss out a good many more recent characters - if you think there is anyone else from before the '80s I should have thought of, please add her in the comments!


  1. That's Trigger Argee.

    And it's always worth citing in this context Janet Kagan's 1973 essay _The Neutral Heroine of James H. Schmitz_ (

  2. That's a good article, Steve! Thanks!

  3. I agree with you about most of the Biggles books lacking female characters, never mind strong ones. There was an exception in one of the early books from the Great War where Biggles becomes entangled with a female spy.