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Who Are Your Heroines?

By Tracey S. Phillips

Real and Historical Women

In the quiet days of quarantine, I had many opportunities to meditate on my life choices and personal behavior. I used the time for reflection on changes I wanted to see in myself and the world around me. So I considered the woman I’d like to become. Am I kind? Thoughtful? Am I a good friend? My rumination brought to mind the women I admire most. Closest to my heart, my grandmother, Lucina Moxley was my teacher and mentor in music and in life. A patron of the arts and music, she was a leader and benefactor, giving much more than she took from life. At the remarkable age of 101, she passed away on her own terms at the start of 2020 quarantine.

Many historical heroines drew my attention, but none more that Harriet Tubman. Born into slavery in 1822, she became an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. In the face of adversity, Ms. Tubman escaped to the North in 1849. Afterward, she rescued seventy or more people from slavery using extreme secrecy and the Underground Railroad. With overwhelming odds against her, she risked her life and stood for what she believed in to save men, women and children.

I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” –Harriet Tubman

Who are your real-life heroines?

Inspiring Authors

My favorite heroine, author of the famous Alphabet mysteries, is the late, great, Sue Grafton. Ms. Grafton’s first novel—unrelated to the famous series—was published in 1967. I read years ago that working in television didn’t agree with her. When she finally published A is for Alibi she had seven manuscripts in her desk drawer and according to the New York Times article, only two of them made it to print. Her go-get-‘em attitude is what drew me to her novels.

Which leads me to fictional heroines. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone was my first and favorite detective. I’ll always remember A is for Alibi, how the tough-as-nails character fought her adversary in the end. No spoilers here!

Fictional Heroines

My favorite literary character of all time is Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. Painted as a punk rebel, orphan and criminal, she overcomes adversity using her uncommon intelligence and a lot of ingenuity. An expert at computer hacking, Salander helps journalist Mikael Blomkvist find a millionaire’s missing family member, his grand-niece who disappeared almost two decades ago. The plot thickens with incestuous family secrets and threats to Blomkvist’s life. Salander is no innocent when it comes to treachery. She has her own ways of dealing with men who treat women badly.

Another fantastic female heroin, Ellen Ripley delivers death and destruction to a threatening alien species in perhaps one of the scariest movies of all time, Alien. Her character arc deepens in the second movie when she finds an orphaned girl, Newt. The alien race captures humans as food for their hatching spawn. As an entire military team is killed by these dangerous creatures, Ripley’s mothering instincts kick in. She takes on the queen bee alien in a fight for Newt’s life and her own. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t give away the end. But Ripley is amazing!

Who are your favorite fictional heroines?

You Are My Hero

2020 has been quite a year of changes and upheavals. The way of normalcy has gone. Some have faced devastating loss during these times. Lost jobs, lost businesses, and irrevocable careers. Many have also lost loved ones to the killer virus. I don’t need to remind you—you’re living it too. You are making changes and concessions for your family and loved ones. You are doing your best to face challenges and take charge of your situation. Bravely, you take on the adversity. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a choice, you are a hero.

Best Kept Secrets

I love hearing about remarkable women, and I love writing about them. Morgan Jewell is the heroine of my novel, Best Kept Secrets. And even though she carries nasty secrets from her past, she overcomes adversity too. Tell me about your favorite women—real and fictional—in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Visit with Tracey at her live Library event on August 11th at 6pm CDT.

Order Best Kept Secrets at Mystery to Me Books.

Tracey S. Phillips

Tracey S. Phillips is the founder of Blackbird Writers and the author of Best Kept Secret. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Saralyn Richard

    What an inspiration your grandmother is! May you live a long and prosperous life as she did, and carry on her legacy. You and I agree on Harriet Tubman and Lizbeth Salander. And all of our readers, too.

    1. tracey64p

      Thanks Saralyn, it’s daunting to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps. She was an inspiration to many pianists and performance artists. And though I teach, performing isn’t in my blood, so I write about the women who face their fears. That way I can go on the journey with them and so can you.

  2. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    I enjoyed your post, Tracey, and enjoyed hearing about your grandmother. I also loved the Sue Grafton series and Kinsey Millhone is still one of my favorite fictional characters. I could never get enough of her!

  3. Joy Ribar
    Joy Ribar

    Thank you for this thoughtful article, and for your tribute to your grandmother, who certainly shaped your identity in a positive way! I recently watched The Vote on PBS’s The American Experience. It took 4 hours to tell the story of the suffragist movement that spanned 70 plus years, while my history textbook covered it in two paragraphs. I was overcome with emotion so many times when I saw the sacrifices these women made and the suffering they endured: rocks thrown at them, beatings, arrests, jail time and more. Alice Paul’s story is remarkable as is Mary Church Terrell’s. Both unknown to me prior to watching, they made strides for women, in Paul’s case, and women of color, in Terrell’s case, that affect all American women. I owe them much gratitude for their accomplishments and lesson in perseverance.

  4. Avatar
    Marilyn Levinson

    I adored my grandmother, who lived to 103. Until we moved when I was 12, we lived in the same building.

    I admire Helen Keller for leading a very full life despite her disabilities. I think the one lesson I’ve learned over time is that each of us is beset by difficulties and losses throughout life. How well we deal with them determines the kind of person we become and influences the quality of the rest of our lives.

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