Badass Girl Characters We'll Always Love

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
This Friday, Anne Shirley will usher in a new generation of fans with the release of Anne with an E, Netflix's spin on Lucy Maud Montgomery's beloved Anne of Green Gables book series. The puffed sleeve enthusiast checks off many of the fictional girl role model boxes: she's an orphan, favors pigtails, and has attitude and pluck to spare. Young girls could do worse than be absorbed by a character who champions creativity, daydreaming, and the power of the imagination — and, you know what? So could we. Consider us in binge-watch mode.
Of course, the pride and joy of Prince Edward Island isn't the only inspirational young lady from our youth. Think of Pippi Longstocking's brazen independence and disdain for rules and authority, or Punky Brewster's sassy survivalism and flair for fashion. Little Women's Jo March chopped off her hair for money, then chose her career over cutie pie Laurie. Girlboss THAT.
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Though the pint-sized protagonists of our childhood could have definitely presented more in the way of diversity, we're grateful to have grown up with these brainiacs, spitfires, and provocateurs. Here's to sharing them with the next generation — and to picking up some new ones along the way.
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Anne Shirley

Lucy Maud Montgomery's fictional firecracker is a Canadian orphan who bemoans her red hair and freckles, and is probably excruciatingly perky if you haven't yet had your morning coffee. More importantly, the Anne of Green Gables and Anne with an E heroine inspired countless fans to indulge their own imaginative musings, whether that's pretending to be Princess Cordelia in puffed sleeves, or turning even the most mindless chore into a thrilling game.

Pictured: Amybeth Nulty in Anne with an E
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Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Jo March

With the exception of that manuscript-burning monster Amy, all of the March girls in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women were worthy of admiration. Still, it was headstrong and creative Jo who emerged as our firm favorite. Selling her beautiful hair to raise money for her family was a total girlboss move (even if she did cry about it later).

Pictured: Winona Ryder in the 1994 film version
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Photo: Barry Wetcher/Sony/Village Roadshow/REX/Shutterstock.
Annie

Our sun will always come out for this plucky orphan, who sang and danced her way into Daddy Warbucks' luxurious home. Total Joanne the Scammer move.

Pictured: Quvenzhané Wallis in the 2014 remake
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Photo: Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.
Harriet the Spy

Louise Fitzhugh's schoolgirl sleuth (real name: Harriet M. Welsch) taught us the value of being a first-class snoop, a skill we continue to indulge by Insta-stalking our exes.

Pictured: Michelle Trachtenberg in the 1996 film
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Photo: Tri Star/REX/Shutterstock.
Matilda Wormwood

Roald Dahl's child prodigy was a total brainiac, voracious reader, and supreme prankster. Sadly, we don't have her telepathic powers to deal with the Miss Trunchbulls in our life.

Pictured: Mara Wilson in the 1996 film version
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Photo: Touchstone/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.
Sara Anderson

Chris Parker's (Elisabeth Shue) brave, Thor-worshipping charge from 1987's Adventures in Babysitting is definitely the kid we'd most like to hang out with while fleeing gangsters on the mean streets of Chicago.

Pictured: Maia Brewton as Sara
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Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX/Shutterstock.
Nancy Drew

Keep your True Detective and Jo Nesbø paperbacks. Frankly, the only fictional crime-solver we need in our lives is this titan-haired teen, who has been in the mystery business for almost 90 years.

Pictured: Emma Roberts played the teen detective in 2007
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Photo: Beta Film/REX/Shutterstock.
Pippi Longstocking

Astrid Lindgren's pigtailed protagonist has inspired multiple films, a TV series, cartoons, and some of our most egregious childhood rebellions. The parent-less Pippi could get away with having a pet monkey, eating pancakes whenever she felt like it, and climbing all over the furniture; we, sadly, could not.

Pictured: Inger Nilsson as Pippi in a 1973 Swedish TV adapatuon
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Photo: Ron Batzdorff/Brownhouse Prod/Botnp Inc/REX/Shutterstock.
Mia Thermopolis

Meg Cabot's wildly popular YA novels spawned Anne Hathaway's breakthrough role as nerd-turned-royal Mia in 2001's The Princess Diaries and its 2004 sequel. Still trying to locate Genovia on a map.

Pictured: Anne Hathaway with Héctor Elizondo
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Photo: Orion/Paramount/REX/Shutterstock.
Wednesday Addams

There's a reason why grown women still rock the Wednesday look on Halloween: She's just so cool. And dark. And somewhat lethal.

Pictured: Christina Ricci in the 1991 film
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Photo: Fox 2000 Pictures/REX/Shutterstock.
Ramona Quimby

Fun fact: The woman who gave us this curious little creature, children's author Beverly Cleary, just turned 101 years old. Thanks for giving us the freedom to daydream (even if it occasionally meant being a pest).

Pictured: Joey King in 2010's Ramona and Beezus
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Photo: NBC-TV/REX/Shutterstock.
Laura Ingalls

Future author and bona fide prairie girl Laura Ingalls Wilder is the only real-life person on this list. Her tales of pioneer life in the Little House on the Prairie book series, and the TV series that followed, weren't just riveting; they gave us the confidence to think that, if push came to shove, we too could churn butter or build a log cabin.

Pictured: Melissa Gilbert in the '70s TV series
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Photo: Disney/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock.
Alice

The story behind Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland series is vaguely unsettling, so let's just focus on celebrating the spirited girl who took us one of the most imaginative journeys in literary history. Note to self: Always follow the white rabbit.

Pictured: Mia Wasikowska in 2010
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Photo: Lionsgate/REX/Shutterstock.
Rue

This young standout from Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games didn't have the happiest story, but she gave the series — and Katniss' mission — heart. She also proved that you shouldn't judge a tribute by her size.

Pictured: Amandla Stenberg in 2012's The Hunger Games
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Photo: 7831/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.
Hermione Granger

Hogwarts' resident know-it-all appealed to our inner nerds, and continues to be our guide in fending off mansplaining. To quote a Women's March sign: "Without Hermione, Harry would have died in the first book."

Pictured: Emma Watson in 2001
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Photo: NBCU Photo Bank.
Punky Brewster & Cherie Johnson

Sorry, but you can't truly enjoy the sass of Punky without the sweetness of her best friend, Cherie. Who among us didn't beg our parents to paint our room in wild shades of pink, blue, and yellow? Who wasn't also convinced that cheese puffs would give us bigger boobs? And why, oh why, did Cherie think an abandoned fridge was a good hiding place?

Pictured: Soleil Moon Frye and Cherie Johnson
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Photo: AP/REX/Shutterstock.
Eloise

Lena Dunham has a tattoo in honor of Kay Thompson's Plaza-dwelling kiddo, and honestly, we get it. She's like Ab Fab for kindergarteners.

Pictured: Thompson with her creation in 1958
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