The beauty of a woman is that you’ll never be the same once one has entered your life. It doesn’t matter how long she stays, if it was for the worse or for the better, the fact is once she’s gone you’ll never be the same. This is the effect women have. And this is the case whether she’s real or imagined, dead or alive. So, in honor of Women’s History Month, I will share with you five female characters who changed my life. (Keep in mind the list is not exhaustive, and only includes characters from books I read in my formative years.)

The beauty of a woman is that you’ll never be the same once one has entered your life.
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1. Elizabeth Bennet: Almost any protagonist in a Jane Austen novel, really, but most notably Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice[1]. She was such a complex female character who challenged societal norms of her time. She’s the one who made me decide I’d get married if and when I wanted to and not because it’s what women do. More importantly, Elizabeth Bennet was a very flawed character. And from her, I learned that when you’ve made a mess of things (your emotions included) you have to woman up and fix it.

2. Abigail: Perhaps the only character I’ve loved because of who she was married to is Abigail in The Bible[2].Abigail’s husband was a drunk who was known for being “good-for-nothing” and yet Abigail kept her vows to him out of loyalty until his death. That didn’t mean she didn’t speak up when mistakes were made. In fact, after delivering an eloquent apology, she was even able to save lives.

3. Margaret Simon: Margaret in Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret is an icon of childhood, the poster child of pre-pubescent turmoil and angst. She tackled issues of religion and menstrual periods, and was perfect at articulating her fears. I’d like to think that I was as articulate with my thoughts as Margaret was at age twelve. She was in such a rush to grow up, as was I, and looking back I realize that’s what made her such an amazing friend. I had her to commiserate with.

4. Manuelita Saenz: The fearless heroine of the revolution in South America couldn’t have been a more amazing character if she had been concocted from some writer’s imagination. It’s almost hard to believe she was real. It’s women like her who prove that we all have that conquer-and-survive gene deep down inside us somewhere. Being the total fan-girl though, I should admit that what I loved most were the deeply poetic letters she wrote when she was pining after a married Simón Bolívar. Yes, that Simón Bolívar. Thus proving that saying about how the measure of a man is directly related to the woman who loves him, couldn’t be more true. And considering if she hadn’t saved her lover twice half of South America might not exist, I’d say they were the ultimate power couple.

5. Esperanza Cordero: Esperanza, at the age of 12, was ripe with political and societal commentary on the lives of immigrants; covering topics of diversity, racism, and prejudice. A self-proclaimed writer, she chronicles a year in her life[3], and candidly shares her dreams of finally getting out of the hood. Doing justice to her name, Spanish for hope, Esperanza taught me that the hope of something better can be the spark a writer needs to tell her stories.

I can see elements of all five of these women in myself. At times, I challenge the limitations placed on women by society in ways Elizabeth Bennet would approve. Other times, I try to be sensible and discreet, a woman of faith like Abigail. I’d like to think I’m as passionate, about my convictions and my man, as Manuelita Saenz was. And, while I’m still living in Allapattah, I finally have that house of my own that Esperanza always dreamed about. We don’t actually know much about these women in terms of beauty, but we know all we need to know about their intelligence, courage, and faith. Thus, they’ve given me real #lifegoals.

[1] Read Pride and Prejudice here.
[2] Read Abigail’s story here.
[3] Read The House on Mango Street here.

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