Every Badass Woman Was Once A Mighty Girl

Engaging with quality books and cinema creates more evolved people. Period.  Feel free to write an angry FB post about why you don’t need to do either of those things. Oh wait, nevermind, y’all ain’t like that! We love artsy intelligent stuff here at Autostraddle! But finding solid and non-damaging media/arts for kids, especially female kids, can be difficult. I feel like most little American kid brains are steered towards reality teevee, and I worry that it’s easy to reach the age of 10 without reading a real book. And when kids do read, especially girl kids, they often as not just end up with something like Twilight, books that don’t help them see the strength inside themselves. Harry Potter would have died in the first book if it weren’t for Hermione, you know? Which is why I’m so glad that A Mighty Girl, a resource for books and movies that are affirming and encouraging of girls, exists.

About A Mighty Girl :

A Mighty Girl is the world’s largest collection of books and movies for parents, teachers, and others dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls. After years of seeking out empowering and inspirational books for our four young nieces, we decided to create A Mighty Girl as a resource site to help others equally interested in supporting and celebrating girls. The site was founded on the belief that all girls should have the opportunity to read books and watch movies that offer positive messages about girls and honor their diverse capabilities.

Also, A Mighty Girl doesn’t have separate categories for Black, Latina, Asian or differently abled. All of the stories are together as equals, as it should be. And AMG isn’t just for kids — there are books and movies in their collection that appeal to everyone. I might just spend the afternoon brushing up on my female empowerment media because then it’s not slacking right? Then it’s Feminism.

So spread the word about this website and use it to build up the catalogues and media libraries of all the badass little kids in your world. It might be called A Mighty Girl but the works in their collection will help kids of all identities grow up to be better people. What are your favorite girl power books and movies and things? Share! Matilda by Roald Dahl will always be at the top of my list.

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Gabrielle Rivera is an awesomely queer Bronx bred, writer, spoken word artist and director. Her short stories and poems have been published in various anthologies such as the Lambda Award winning Portland Queer: Tales from the Rose City and The Best of Panic! En Vivo from the East Village. Her short film "Spanish Girls are Beautiful" follows a group of young Latina and Caucasian girls who like girls as they hook up, smoke up and try to figure sh*t out. She also freelances for Autostraddle.com while working in the film and television industry. Gabrielle is currently working on her first novel while bouncing around NYC performing spoken word and trying to stick it to the man.

gabby has written 102 articles for us.


  1. Anything by Madeleine L’Engle qualifies I think — she had unattractive, abrasive girl main characters who still ended up as the heroine of the story. I’m looking forward to forcing them on any future daughters/nieces/late-arriving little sisters.

  2. I know, the swede mentioning Pippi Longstocking, what a total cliché.

    But seriously you guys, Pippi Longstocking.

  3. My only niece is named after Matilda, which I think is awesome and means she’s going to grow up to be a Little Monster/feminist/set pianos on fire.

    My homegirl is Anne of Green Gables, she was a badass and was gay for her best friend.

    • I spent years begging my parents to move us to Prince Edward Isle so that Anne and I could be “kindred spirits”!

  4. Tamora Pierce! Not great works of literature, but they were some of the first YA fantasy novels to have really really (absurdly, sometimes unrealistically) strong female main characters. Her series involve a girl with insane magic skills pretending to be a boy for 9 years to become a knight (Song of the Lioness series), a girl with no magic skills who just kicks everyone’s ass black and blue while becoming a knight (Protector of the Small series),and one of her books involves a realistic lesbian love story (The Last Empress). If you’re looking for highly nuanced, psychologically deep characters or deft writing you’re not necessarily going to find it, but the girls-kicking-ass-while-not-needing-men quotient is through the roof.

    These books pretty much defined my middle-school existence. I was oddly fascinated by girls-masquerading-as-boys plot arcs as a kid, is that a lesbian thing?

    • Well, if two of us make it a thing, then it’s a thing. I read all of her books 16 times on rotation when I was ~13. Don’t forget the Immortals series! That one does have magic and does have ass-kicking with a major in archery and a minor in awesome hair.

      • I’m happy I’m not the only one who read her books over and over.
        The Immortals was always my favorite.

      • Me too. I actually bonded with most of my highschool friends over Tamora Pierce.

        Once there was a thread on Autostraddle about gay friendly YA fantasy novels, and Tamora Pierce commented. You guys, I was in the same part of the blogosphere as Tamora Pierce!

    • Loved Song of the Lioness series as a kid. Seriously made me want to pretend to be a boy so I could be a knight. It is like every little butch girls mediaeval dream!

    • YES! I’d like to think it’s a badass woman-in-the-making thing, rather than just-for-lesbians-in-the-making thing, but no one I knew was into those books like I was! (Clarification: I only knew straight people growing up.) Also, I found and reread all of Tamora Pierce’s books over again last summer while visiting my parents. My childhood bookshelf is definitely that of a tiny feminist. I want an open thread where we all talk about what was on our childhood bookshelves!!

    • The whole girl-pretending-to-be-a-boy thing is totally why I love Mulan so much, but I digress.

    • YES! THIS! I absolutely love her books and they made my childhood! Tamora Pierce basically made me a feminist because I thought Keladry was a really amazing character, and then at first that meant I ran around in circles so I could be strong like her but then it turned into me realizing what people were doing when they said girls were weak and everything similar because that’s usually what she fought against. I really just loved her
      And it took her a while but she had a lesbian character (Daja)…
      I mean all of her characters were just unbelievably inspirational and admirable and they didn’t need guys and they were also intelligent…
      I could fangirl about pierce for hours.

    • I’ve been a Tamora Pierce fan for more than a decade. I met her when I was 13 and she signed a ton of my books for my birthday and talked to me about writing. I think that was the first time I became serious about being a writer. I’d always been a fan of stories with mischievous thieves and women masquerading as men to be warriors, but something about the way Pierce presented it clicked in my little teen brain.

      I also really liked the Circle books. They’re not set in Tortall, and the first series is probably aimed at younger kids than the Tortall books, but the teachers are lesbians and the magic and different settings in the sequel series rocks.

  5. “But finding solid and non-damaging media/arts for kids, especially female kids, can be difficult.” – TRUTH
    This is really cool.

  6. Re: Tamora Pierce books — yes. They showed me that not only can girls kick ass, but yarncraft can be cool and/or magical. Also, their housemothers were totally lesbians.

    And I’ve got to add Nancy Drew to this conversation. Yes, she’s kind of a wimp at times, and definitely over-privileged, and the books are not great literature, but she solved mysteries and there were mostly not any boys mucking about. Also, her best friend George began my abiding love of girls with boy’s names.

    • Are we talking about Lark and Rosethorn? Oh yes indeed. totally lady lovers. I actually read Lark as a man for the first few chapters the first time I read it because I noticed a subtext with Rosethorn somehow and I figured it HAD to be a dude (I didn’t know lesbians could exist back then)(I mean, completely skipping over ALL her pronouns, because dyslexia+ lazy reading=yay, verbs and nouns are the only things worth the effort right?)

    • In the last book of that story arc (The Will of the Empress), it’s definitely confirmed that Rosethorn is bisexual, although there is nothing said about Lark beyond her relationship with Rosethorn (I always assumed she was a lesbian, too).

      I freaking love Tamora Pierce. Her books were a staple of my adolescence.

  7. Can I give a shout-out to Ramona Quimby? She was my biggest girl influence as a kid and did whatever she wanted all the time, which was awesome

  8. SAMMY KEYES EVERYONE. SAMMY. KEYES. I was addicted to those books in elementary school, and they were the best. It’s basically about this awesome girl in middle school who solves mysteries and I’m like 90% sure I was in love with her. I probably still am, tbh. In fact, a couple of new ones have come out since I last read them, and I’ve been thinking about reading them once I get the time (never mind the fact that I’m going off to college this year). That is how good these books are.

    Also, that is such a cool website! I’ve got a half-sister who is almost two, so I’m constantly on the look out for stuff like this for her.

    • I forgot to mention, there’s also this. I haven’t looked through it, but I just saw that they’ve got Stellaluna listed, so I’m already convinced it’s great.

      • Sammy Keyes tho! I think I was in love with her too, but also really really wanted to be her

  9. Harriet the Spy! I picked my first best friend at college because she wrote her admissions essay on Harriet.

    Yes, yes, yes, ditto w/ Tamora Pierce for sure. I started reading her books as soon as I could read and I still have all of them; I’m planning to give them to my niece once she’s not an infant.
    I think Tamora Pierce was the reason for my witchcraft/Wicca phase, which is also kind of a lesbian thing, I think.

  10. I am the woman I am today because of these characters–they helped me find my voice and spine, to see who I could be in the world.

    As a Mom, I read them to my son so he sees girls as strong, smart, capable, fun and equal. Thanks to Harriet the Spy, he has announced his new career choice as espionage. I told him I thought a Vulcanologist was still a better idea…

  11. Thanks for posting this – my niece is 6 and I when hear myself explaining why it is news that Meryl Streep is the oldest woman ever featured on the cover of Vogue, I think, “WE NEED NEW MYTHS!” What is this s*$t? Books that are intentionally feminist are critical in influencing the ways my niece sees herself in these portrayals of women.

  12. One of my favorite books when I was younger was called Riding Freedom about this orphan who dressed up as a boy to drive horses. She was awesome. I don’t know how it ended because it was due at the library and I never finished it. I didn’t know you could renew books when I was little.

  13. Apart from Hermione (who has gotta be my favourite female fictional role model ever, pretty much), I also used to love the Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda (think they might be Australian). They featured a girl called Jasmine who grows up by herself in a forrest, saves the other characters skins’ multiple times with her badass-ness, and spends a lot of time dressed as a boy. She also becomes Queen of Deltora in the end :) Also Flavia in the Roman Mysteries was pretty tough, and when I was younger, Jane and the Dragon (she’s a knight without even having to pretend she’s boy!) and another book whose title I can’t recall about a girl who wants to play football and isn’t allowed to until someone on the boy’s team loses their team shorts and there’s only a very small pair left in the bag, so she puts them on and plays and they win cos she’s awesome.
    Looking back on it, my love of girls dressed as boys and generally being badass should have indicated my gayness way sooner. :P

    • I thought Jasmine was awesome as well. One of my many, many girl crushes as a kid (even though I totally just thought I wanted to be ‘like’ them…looking back, not quite the way it was :P )

  14. Not a book or a movie, but pretty much every female character in The Last Airbender kicks ass: Katara, Toph, Suki, Mai & Ty Lee, heck even Azula was full of epic awesome.

    Also Korra from the new series :)

  15. am i the only one who had a serious infatuation with Sarah Crew from the Little Princess? Like I wanted to be her and maybe it’s cuz I have a thing for period pieces and almost orphans…
    but she was badass

    and so was harriet the spy and ramona…

    god i love you homos.

    • Sarah Crew is my girl! I seriously love that movie to this day.
      Even if they live in tiny old attics
      Even if they dress in rags
      They’re still princesses. All girls are.

      Fuck yeah, Sarah.

  16. I would add a vote for Joan D. Vinge’s “The Snow Queen”, Moon was definitely a bad ass.

    More recently, Kristin Cashore’s “Graceling” and “Fire” have great female protagonists.

    If you want lesbians + cyberpunk, then check out Melissa Scott’s “Trouble and Her Friends.”

    One more and then I promise I’ll stop. I loved Lyra in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy

  17. For about 5 years of my childhood I read Harriet the Spy continuously and kept a black and white composition book with me at all times to record my spy thoughts.
    I’m 87% sure I was convinced I WAS Harriet the Spy, but disregard.

  18. Thank you for all these book ideas!! I am going to the library now, armed with a list of books for my daughter and I to read together. This is awesome!!!!!

  19. Not a movie, but am I the only one who was obsessed with Mulan growing up? Seriously, she’s like the epitome of a Mighty Girl.

  20. I loved Clarice Bean – sure, she may have been a little whiny at times, but looking back, she was so badass.

    Also, for people a little older (I’m sure they’re aimed at people between 10 and 12, they’re still totally cool books) I loved loved loved the Kiki Strike series, about a group of girls who join together to explore an underground city in New York. Totally badass, and full of side notes about how awesome it is to be a girl, and how to take advantage of people underestimating you.

    Okay guys, yes, I’m a little obsessed, but they were so good!

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