I am a nerd (well, duh).
I am also a woman (duh again, what was the name of this blog?)
Growing up, I loved things like horror, action movies and Batman.
In fact, I still love all of these things, although I have expanded my horizons a little bit (The Green Arrow is my show boo, thank you very much!)
And don’t get me wrong, I love being a nerd, and I always have, even if my social calendar has always been strangely empty. But being part of so many fan-doms, which have allowed me to meet so many wonderful people (Internet, where have you been all my life?), is simply rewarding…there is no other way to put it. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
However, being a female nerd has put me in a delicate position. I love my Batsy, I love my dispensers of vigilante justice and I love being scared into a change of pants by evil, sewer dwelling clowns and whatever other “monster of the week” happens to either haunting the books I read or the movies I watch.
But even as a child, I noticed something that made being a nerd that much harder, at least for me.
That’s right, you guessed it…the lack of female nerds.
At least, this was the case when I was growing up. It is true that April O’Neil was a presence on one of my favorite shows.
There was also Dr. Crusher.
(The fact that both of these ladies are gingers is just purely coincidental. Nope, no bias here at all).
But there was no denying it: nerdiness was not geared towards the likes of me. Instead, all the cool stuff was geared towards the boys. And although we have made some pretty good strides in recent years, there is still that mentality: meeting another woman who is versed in the story line of something like The Killing Joke and who is stoked for the upcoming movie is not common, even though this is something that is changing as well, although slowly.
In fact, when I was introduced to Special Agent Dana Scully, I wept. At last, a female nerd! She was smart AND could throw down some serious shade! And do all that in three inch heels!
As I got older, I began to look for female role models in my nerdy obsessions. Slowly, I began to find them.
In other words, I picked up my Stephen King habit after an extended hiatus. And I found some great female role models…
Ok, glad you have let that sink in. So quit laughing, and let’s talk about the ladies in the works of The Master.
King is the master of modern horror. This fact is undisputed by most. He knows how to terrify us, with his monsters, both human and inhuman.
But King also creates great characters that we can all relate too. Jack Torrance, Larry Underwood and Johnny Smith are just a few examples of the Every Man.
King also has given us the Every Woman. It is true that some of his female characters are mainly seen through the eyes of another character who is usually male. Examples of those would include Wendy Torrance and Leigh Cabot.
But King has also created some great female characters that are either main characters, or “side characters” that actually stand on their own, sometimes even stealing the show from the guys.
So Stephen King is not only The Master, he has made some pretty cool contributions to the women’s movement…check! I still don’t know if he has mastered interpretive dance, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.
And I figure now would be a good time to pay tribute to some of these ladies via a post in this little old blog.
So, without further ado, here is a list of what I consider to be the most memorable women in King’s works. This is a list containing only ten, so I apologize if I left out your favorite…ranking awesome is not easy!
And, as always:
10. Jo Noonan (Bag of Bones)
I am trying to stick with “human” ladies for this post, so I struggled with this one for a bit.
However, Jo Noonan won out in the end. She was indeed a ghost, but she was living at one point. Which makes her human to me.
Jo Noonan was a force. In life, she was courageous and fought to the very end.
Even in death, she was unstoppable. Jo simply would not rest until her mission was accomplished: expose the truth (which was not pretty) in regards to a small town’s questionable history. Not only was Jo determined to expose the truth in regards to the small town that was her and Mike’s summer home, she was also determined to protect a child who had no tie to her or to Mike. However, that did not matter to Jo, as she was determine to break the curse that had ruined the lives of so many, including her own.
And Jo succeeded in that mission: with her help, Mike was able to stop the curse and save the life of an innocent, and was able to ensure that no further generations would suffer either.
Jo Noonan was a constant presence in this book. Even when her ghost was not around, we got to know her through her husband, Mike Noonan, as she was such a big part of his life, even after she died. Even though she technically not living, this fact was easy to forget, as Mike’s memories served to paint a vivid portrait of her, making her as essential to the story as the living cast.
9. Abra Stone (Dr. Sleep)
In many of King’s works, children are put in perilous situations. Often, these children are faced with some adult situations that call for adult decisions. And a wrong decision can literally be the difference between life and death.
Abra Stone is one of these “King children.” And there are a couple of reasons why she is on this list. One of them is that she is female. She may be just a teenager when the events of Dr. Sleep take place, but she is forced to do quite a bit of growing up in a relatively short period of time, earning her a place on this list of distinguished women. Another reason is that she is simply an ass kicker. There is no other way to put it.
In the novel Dr. Sleep, the grown-up Danny Torrance (of redrum fame from The Shining) is a major player. Most of the adults that were in Danny’s life as a child failed him (especially his father.) So it is up to Danny to not fail Abra, a girl who possesses PSI abilities similar to his own, although hers are much stronger than his ever will be. And Danny succeeds in that mission, quite admirably.
However, Danny’s success was heavily tied to Abra and her abilities. Abra is an extremely brave young woman who takes on the leader of a clan of psychic vampires who call themselves the “True Knot.” In doing so, Abra risks her own, along with the lives of her loved ones. The clan has cheated death for centuries, and is determined to “harvest” Abra’s abilities so that they may continue to cheat death for many more years.
However, with the help of Abra, Danny is able to defeat this clan once and for all, saving the life of Abra and possibly several others. In other words, Abra was able to work with Danny so that Danny could succeed where his father had failed. Abra was able help Danny achieve something that he desperately needed: redemption.
8) Margaret White (Carrie)
No story is complete without a good bad guy.
Or bad gal, as the case may be.
Carrie is King’s first published work. The book definitely has this feel, and makes for an interesting read.
The title character, Carrie White, is fascinating in her own right. As a survivor of childhood bullying myself, I identify with Carrie White on many, many levels. In fact, I am pretty amazed that I survived high school and didn’t burn down my school on prom night (the fact that I could not get a date to prom to save my life has absolutely nothing to do with this.)
But the real strength of this book, at least to me, lies in the villains. I could consider Carrie’s schoolmates to be villains (and they are pretty awful) but to me, Margaret White, the mother of Carrie, is the true villain of the book.
Margaret is a religious fanatic who strives to raise her daughter to become the same way. However, Carrie attempts to defy Margaret so that she can fit in with her peers and be accepted somewhere. Usually, these efforts fail, and Carrie is left feeling even worse, which causes her mother to retreat even further into her religion, worsening the cycle.
Sex is considered dirty by Margaret White, and she does not explain “the birds and the bees” to her daughter. Therefore, when Carrie gets her first menstrual period at age 17, all hell literally breaks loose. Carrie thinks that she is dying, as she has no knowledge of what is a perfectly occurrence. She is further alienated by her peers. One of these girls feels some guilt, and attempts to help Carrie fit in by having her boyfriend take Carrie to her prom. Carrie fights her mother, who vehemently opposes any kind of normalcy, in order to try to fit in with her peers once again. However, once again, this backfires, but in a horrific way that no one could have imagined.
Throughout the book, Margaret White’s presence is felt, even up to the conclusion of the story. If it had not been for Margaret’s fanaticism, the outlook for poor Carrie may have been quite different, and the reign of destruction experienced by her classmates, teachers and ultimately her mother, may not have happened at all. So, in essence, Margaret White created the monster, and suffered the horrific consequences, along with many others.
7. Dolores Claiborne (Dolores Claiborne)
Domestic abuse is a common theme in many King works, including It, Rose Madder, ‘Salem’s Lot, Insomnia and many others. King writes about the every day issues we are all familiar, and domestic abuse is unfortunately one of those issues.
Dolores Claiborne is another King novel that deals with the issue of domestic abuse. However, there is a twist: Dolores Claiborne is one of the few stories of abuse told entirely from the perspective of the abused, a middle-aged woman named Dolores Claiborne.
Dolores endures some horrific abuse from her husband, Joe. Finally, Dolores takes a stand, and the abuse against her comes to a stop. But the spousal abuse is only the beginning, as Joe transfers his aggression to someone else: his and Dolores’ teenage daughter, Selena. Joe begins to sexually abuse Selena, and Selena’s innocence is forever lost. And Dolores realizes that her battle is not over.
At first, Dolores looks for a peaceful solution to her problem. But society reminds her that she is a woman and powerless against the hierarchy. So Dolores decides to forget the peaceful solution and resorts to killing her husband, making it look like an accident. Society and her husband have pushed her, and she pushes back the only way she can: a fatal “accident” that does indeed turn out to be “her best friend.”
However, Dolores is NOT a cold-blooded killer. She is a loving, hard-working mother who is doing the best she can for her family. The law is not on her side and society has marginalized her. But she has not given up the fight, and ultimately rises above it all.
6) Sadie Dunhill (11/22/63)
Behind every good man, there is a good woman. Or something like that, as the saying goes. In other words, much of life is a partnership, and it really does take two to tango.
And this was the case in the novel 11/22/63. Jake Epping travels back in time to attempt to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In preventing the assassination of the president, Jake hopes to change history for the better.
Initially, Jake is alone in his question. But this is not the case for long. Jake meets and falls in love with Sadie Dunhill, a beautiful young woman who is in the midst of divorcing her abusive husband. And Jake’s quest becomes even more complicated.
Ultimately, Sadie takes a bullet and sacrifices her life so that Jake may succeed in his quest. When she learns of Jake’s mission, Sadie becomes an advocate, never letting Jake forget why he traveled back in time. She encourages Jake along the way and becomes as passionate about his mission as Jake. Her relationship with Jake changes Jake for the better, making him more vulnerable, opening him up to his feelings.
Sadie is also amazing in her own right. She has the courage to leave her husband at a time when divorce was heavily frowned upon, especially for women. She fights back against her husband in two different timelines, and wins both times, even when she did not have the help of Jake. Sadie survives her divorce, and makes a difference in the world (in both timelines.)
5. Susan Delgado (Wizard and Glass)
Again, children in the Stephen King universe are often placed in awful situations. This is a prevailing theme, and is a theme in the book Wizard and Glass.
Susan Delgado is still a child at the beginning of the story of Roland Deschain’s youth. However, she falls in love with Roland and is forced to grow up quickly. Because of the bad decisions made by the adults in Susan’s life, her life becomes endangered when she commits the sin of falling in love with Roland.
However, Susan is not just a love interest for Roland. She is much more than that, and becomes an integral part of his ka-tet. Susan risks her life to help Roland and his friends fight The Good Man and his forces, which include include most of the people in her town, who have turned against the Affiliation. And she pays the ultimate price for her bravery: she is burned alive for “treason.” But Susan is never bitter about her fate, and her last words are her declaration of love for Roland.
Throughout Wizard and Glass, Susan realizes that because she is a woman, life will not necessarily be “fair.” She deals with her greedy aunt, an evil witch and unwanted sexual advances from a man nearly old enough to be her grandfather. However, she remains true to herself until the very end, and is ultimately responsible for Roland beginning his quest to save the Dark Tower.
4) Susannah Dean (The Dark Tower series)
When one thinks of the Dark Tower series, Roland Deschain naturally comes to mind. And Roland Deschain is a huge part of this series, as he is the main protagonist.
However, Roland is not alone in this quest. He had friends once, but they were lost. But someone (or something) decided that he needed friends again.
Enter Susannah Dean. And Odetta Holmes. And Detta Walker. No, Roland was not given three women. He was given one woman (along with another man, a young boy and even a creature known as a billy-bumbler but this entry is for the ladies only.)
When Roland first meets Susannah, she is a broken woman who literally does not know her true self. One self goes by the name of Odetta Holmes, and is educated, well-spoken and gentle. However, another personality, Detta Walker, wages war inside Susannah. Detta is rude, crude and volatile, and threatens to destroy Susannah’s mind completely.
Eventually, Odetta and Detta are united, and a new being emerges: Susannah Dean. Susannah Dean has now married one of her tet mates. She has also become a gunslinger, and a brave one at that, who refuses to back down from anyone or anything. Susannah becomes the heart of the ka-tet, and makes sure that Roland retains a least a little of his humanity as he grows closer and closer to reaching his goal.
Susannah endures unspeakable pain in the name of Roland’s quest. First, she loses her husband, Eddie Dean. Then she loses Jake Chambers, her spiritual son. But Susannah is a survivor, until the very end, and reaches her own Dark Tower when she is finally reunited with her husband and son.
3) Lisey Landon (Lisey’s Story)
A common theme in King’s work is the often taboo subject of mental illness. Many of his books deal with this topic in its various facets.
One of these books is the novel Lisey’s Story. Lisey’s Story can be considered a fantasy novel that is also a metaphor for the the creative process. Lisey’s Story has much to say about mental illness as well, including its effects on the loved ones of people who suffer from mental illness.
Before she meets Scott, Lisey is ordinary. However, when she chooses to spend her life with Scott, it becomes clear that Lisey is no ordinary woman.
Scott Landon is a brilliant but troubled writer. Mental illness has had tragic consequences for Scott’s family, and Scott (rightfully) fears tragic consequences for himself and anyone else who is close to him (namely, his wife, Lisey.) However, Lisey loves Scott, and is determined to stand by him, no matter what kind of sacrifices that she may have to make.
Lisey becomes Scott’s anchor. When Scott becomes trapped in a kind of no-man’s land, Lisey is able to rescue him. Lisey realizes that Scott is not ordinary either, but still accepts Scott along with all of his peculiarities.
Even in death, Lisey is still firmly anchored to Scott. However, in order to save herself, Lisey must rely on her own strength. And she is able to do just that, which allows her to return to the land of the living so that she can hear one last story from Scott, and allow him his final peace.
2) Rose McLendon (Rose Madder)
I am a survivor of domestic abuse. For years, I lived in hell. At times, I thought that I would not live to see my 30th birthday (I was 29 when I escaped.) I felt alone and carried a huge burden on my shoulders, as no one outside my relationship knew about about the abuse. This was the case for many years, even after I escaped my first marriage. The fact that I kept this secret for so long nearly destroyed me emotionally. Even now, as I write this paragraph, the tears still well up in my eyes.
But something kept me going for all of these years. That something was the book Rose Madder.
Rose McLendon endures years of abuse and humiliation from her husband, Norman. Rose finally escapes and attempts to build a new life in another city 800 miles away. But the past catches up with her, when her husband Norman (who is also a police officer) tracks her down, killing several people who were friends of Rose and who helped her to build her new life.
Rose battles with her husband and wins that battle, even though she requires some help. She goes on with her life and gets married again and has a daughter a daughter with her second husband.
I enjoyed the fact that Rose was able to defeat her husband, but my favorite part of this book was the description of the aftermath. Even after Norman is no longer in her life, Rose still struggles. She experiences anger over her ordeal that she has repressed for many years, and this threatens her new life. Eventually, Rose is able to get her troubles under control, but struggles for some time.
Most of the focus on abusive relationships is on leaving the abuser. And this is indeed a major step. However, not much advice is given on how to cope with the aftermath. Reading about Rose’s feelings, which were similar to my own, made me love the book and this character that much more. In Rose McLendon, King has truly created the Every Woman.
And now, for my favorite female Stephen King character of all time…
Allow me the pleasure of introducing…
Beverly Marsh (It)
Yes, Beverly Marsh, the sole female member of the Losers Club, is my top female Stephen King character. There are many reasons for this, so let’s talk about them.
Beverly may not be endowed with any special powers. She may not technically be a “gunslinger.” But Beverly is extraordinary, and deserves her spot on this list.
When I was a child, I was not interested in the typical “girly” things. I did not play with Barbie dolls. Instead, many of my interests were “male.” I liked the Ninja Turtles. I preferred Thundercats to whatever was marketed to girls at the time.
Because of my interests, I often felt that there was something wrong with me. Nobody quite knew what to do with me, including my own family. I thought that I was the one who needed to change, as opposed to thinking that our society needed to change and become more accepting of someone like me.
Then, when I was 12 years old, I read It. And I met Beverly Marsh. Beverly didn’t like “girl” things either. Beverly could hang with the boys and hold her own. Beverly was tough and seemed fearless. And it didn’t hurt that Beverly was also tall and a redhead, two things that I absolutely hated about myself at the time.
Beverly may have faced an evil clown (twice!) but her extraordinary qualities extend way beyond that fact. Don’t get me wrong, facing Pennywise the Clown on a semi-regular basis is nothing to sneeze at, but Beverly had to endure so much more.
As I have stated time and time again, one of King’s strengths as a writer is the fact that he writes about ordinary life so well. And this is evident in a book like It. The homicidal clown is just one facet of this book. Compared to what the kids had to face on a daily basis, Pennywise was actually pretty mild.
And Beverly had to endure so much real-life horror. For starters, she was an outcast. She was poor, so she was bullied. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she was abused by her father, and in the summer of 1958, that abuse began to take on sexual overtones. Of course, there was no refuge for Beverly, as most adults, even her mother, turned a blind eye on the abuse.
Even after facing Pennywise the first time, the horror did not end for Beverly. She went on to marry an abusive man, and was trapped in a nightmare for several years. However, it was a strength of a childhood promise that compelled her to finally fight back, and escape from the nightmare, once and for all.
In facing Pennywise for the second time, Beverly finally finds her footing and a confidence that was missing for most of her life. She is even able to find love, as she marries a fellow Loser, Ben Hanscom. Beverly rode off into the sunset with Ben, but she earned that ride, given what she had to overcome. And a clown living in the sewers was the least of it.
So there you have it.
My top 10 ladies in the Stephen King universe. I am sure that maybe I missed a few, but this list did have to be cut down to 10.
Like all of King’s characters, these ladies are fascinating and are an integral part to the stories that they appear in. They are also proof that Stephen King is much more than a writer of horror; he is also a writer who understands the human condition, along with the female condition.
And whoever you are, man or woman, do yourself a big favor and pick up one or more of these books, if you haven’t already, so that you can meet some fascinating characters and escape into the never-boring world known as a Stephen King book.