5. Jane Eyre, from Jane Eyre
You may not think of poor, plain, obscure, and little Jane Eyre as badass. By modern standards, she’s just a normal self-confident woman, but by Victorian standards, she was pretty hardcore. She repeatedly stands up to authority, she defies what Bronte portrays as the hypocritical views of the church, she refuses to compromise her morals or her dignity and self-worth even for a man she passionately loves, and in the end, she chooses to marry him only on her own terms. Compared to the average portrayal of Victorian women, I would call her pretty badass.
Badass-tributes: Fiercely independent, self-confident, strong of character
4. Irene Adler, from A Scandal in Bohemia
Known only as “the woman” to Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler was one of the few people in the Holmes canon (and the only woman) to out-smart Holmes. And as if out-smarting Holmes wasn’t enough, after getting away from him, she walks right by the master of disguise dressed as a boy and says hello to him, just to really stick it to him when he figured it out later. That is tubesy.
Badass-tributes: Smart, “adventuresome”, sneaky, brave
3. Marian Halcombe, from The Woman in White
Marian Halcombe is described by Wilkie Collins as being very unattractive, but she’s whip-smart, resourceful, and a portrait of manners and class. She saves her rather pathetic and helpless sister multiple times using her smarts and techniques such as spying and bribery. Despite his emphasis on her plain looks, Collins got loads of letters from readers who wanted to marry Marian, assuming she was based on a real person. It’s nice to know that even Victorian men liked badass women.
Badass-tributes: Smart, bold, assertive, doesn’t wear a corset!
2. Madame Defarge and The Vengeance from A Tale of Two Cities
First off, if your nickname is “The Vengeance” you are probably pretty badass. Madame Defarge and her loyal friend Vengeance have a serious bone to pick with the French aristocracy. Defarge keeps a running tally of people to behead by encoding their names into knitted fabric. Then, when all heck breaks loose and the Revolution starts, she is a leader in the brutal slaughter. She didn’t actually live in the 19th century, but A Tale of Two Cities was published in the 19th century, so it counts.
Badass-tributes: Merciless, discreet, vengeful
1. Carmilla, from Carmilla
Carmilla is the star of the eponymous novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu which predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula. She was a lesbian vampire who preyed only on women, sucking their blood repeatedly until they finally died – that is about as badass as it gets.
Badass-tributes: Lesbian vampire, changes into a black cat, sleeps in a coffin, what more do you need?
What do you think? Who else should be on the list?