The more I write and the more I read, the more it seems I gravitate toward the genre of Historical Ladies Kicking Butt.
Eleanor Folley, whose third adventure arrives next week, certainly fits into that category. The loss of her mother as a child spurred her toward a life that ended up mirroring her mother’s in many ways — and yet, not, for where her mother seemingly stumbled, Eleanor succeeded. As an operative for the mysterious Mistral agency, Eleanor explores (and sometimes transcends) history itself.
So where the heck did Eleanor come from? What inspired me as I built the series? Here are a few historical ladies I dearly love from television:
1920’s Australia: Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries had three seasons on television, and rumor is there will be a movie. Miss Fisher also has a much more extensive book life (written by Kerry Greenwood), which I’ve only just begun to explore. Miss Fisher is outspoken and rarely timid (though she rather doesn’t like spiders). She’s an independent lady who knows marriage is not for her, but birth control and lovers are; she has a rocky relationship with her parents, and a super friendship with Elizabeth MacMillian (who is also fabulous in her own right, a doctor and a lesbian!). And good gracious, those clothes!
1940’s America: Peggy Carter is why I got into The Avengers at all. I heard talk about an Agent Carter series — and given it contained a) a leading heroine and b) historical time frame, I figured I’d better start with the Captain America movies so I’d know who she was. I really didn’t expect to fall in love. Peggy isn’t a waif and she’s not a secretary; she’s more than competent at her job, often showing the men up and surprising them in the process. She has friendships with women — and I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss her growing friendship with Ana Jarvis (played by Lotte Verbeek from Outlander — I literally squealed when I saw it was her), who teaches Peggy how to store a gun in her garter!
19th century London: As I watched the first few episodes of Penny Dreadful, I was shocked that no one (not a one!) had told me there was an awesomely historical lady investigating a dead body that appeared to have an Egyptian vampire inside of it. WHAT. Vanessa Ives is…splendid. Another no nonsense lady who takes absolutely no shit, even from the devil himself. Another lady who has a strong friendship with another woman — a lengthy correspondence with her dear childhood friend, Mina; not to mention the mentorship she had with the Cut Wife! Vanessa has something very literal inside of her, and her struggle is a joy to watch.
18th century Scotland: I first met Claire in the Outlander books; I was nervous when it was announced Outlander was to be a TV series, because oh beloved books. But it’s been wonderful seeing that world brought to life. Balfe’s Claire is as I picture her on the page; she’s out of her element and yet not. Claire’s story starts in 1940s England, at the end of the war, and whisks her across time, to Scotland of 1743. Claire often knows too much for her own good and it gets her in a sound amount of trouble. Who doesn’t love a troublemaker, anyhow? Claire has a wonderful friendship with Geillis Duncan (Lotte Verbeek! Squee!) and later, Jenny Fraser. Both are drawn with care and consideration and I appreciate both.
Historical ladies kicking butt!
You will have no doubt noticed, as I did in making this list, that it’s awfully white! While I’ve limited myself to television, if you have recommendations for more diverse historical heroines and settings, be they on TV or in books, please leave a comment!