Tomboys in Literature who Live to Stand Out

This one goes out to all the tomboys. Don’t let anyone deter you from being your tomboyish self! The best women aren’t determined by how masculine or feminine they are, it’s about strength and the courage to be yourself.

1. Petrova Fossil from Ballet Shoes

Noel Streathfield was a female author with an unconventional male first name who was known for her tomboyish and independent characters and Petrova is one of them. Unlike her sisters Posy and Paulie, Petrova is sporty and tinkers with mechanical devices. She’s not as artistic and is stupid with a needle, but an expert when it comes to building airplane models out of Meccano. Her mechanical expertise aids her in following her dreams of becoming a pilot, unlike her sisters who are keen on getting into the arts and entertainment. Petrova doesn’t enjoy dancing and is actually bored of ballet. She is also pale and has high cheekbones, leading to unfair comparisons between her and rosy cheeked and dimpled Posy and Paulie. Her favorite pastime is going down to the dirt track on Sundays to watch races and planes take off.

Petrova from Ballet Shoes image

2. Rose from Eight Cousins

Young Rose loves playing football, and as a result her concerned parents even seek medical attention. Thankfully, the good doctor’s advice is for her to continue playing football, run and shout instead of forcing her into doing bead work like other girls her age, since he believes that ‘tomboyish girls will eventually grow into strong women’.

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott image

3. Miss Matilda Murray from Agnes Grey

Published by Anne Brontë under the male pseudonym Acton Bell, Agnes Grey follows Matilda Murray who is a fourteen year old with a penchant for pairing short frocks with trousers and is considered less pretty than her sisters due to her big boned and awkward features. Not that this deters her from being her own vivacious and vigorous self. She is indocile and irrational, doesn’t care for prim and proper manners and even swears like a sailor, a trait that she acquired from her father.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë image

4. Jo March from Little Women

This well known character with a gender neutral name is seen as an icon for tomboys everywhere. Unlike her prim and proper sisters, Jo enjoys boys’ games, slang words and even their manners. She is often put down for her free use of slang words and for whistling in an unladylike manner.

Jo March from Little Women side by side image

5. Frankie from The Member of the Wedding

Frankie is an outcast who wishes that people could be able to change between boys and girls as and when they please. She struggles to fit in with family and the community and her iconic character is often studied in gender study and queer related texts due to these tomboyish traits.

Frankie from The Member of the Wedding image

6. George Fayne from the Nancy Drew series

George does wear dresses and dates boys her age like Nancy and Bees; but unlike the other girls, she isn’t overly interested in both as they make her appear girlish and she prefers to remain her athletic, improper self.

George Fayne image from the Nancy Drew series

7. Alison Bechdel from her memoir, Fun Home

In her graphic novel memoir, Bechdel portrays herself to be a tomboy who could never be herself from childhood, who dreaded dresses and feminine accessories and forever felt closeted.

Alison Bechdel, author of memoir, Fun Home image

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