This past Friday, October 7th, was Ada Lovelace Day, a day which “aims to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) by encouraging people around the world to talk about the women whose work they admire”. The day is named after Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, who tragically died from cancer at age 36, leaving her potential sadly unfilled. You can learn more about Ada on the fabulous Finding Ada website, dedicated to promoting the achievements of women in STEM.
As part of Ada Lovelace Day, the Finding Ada site calls upon bloggers to share a story about a woman who has inspired them in becoming who they are today. And although I know I’m a few days late, I wanted to join in by talking about two females who have affected my life and development as a person, even though they’re fictional. Obviously there are lots of real-life women who have inspired me, as well, but when you’re as obsessed with books, TV and movies as I am, sometimes your brain instinctively goes the fictional route first. Even while rustling through the character card catalogue in my head, many worthy female candidates popped up (Buffy Summers and Sydney Bristow should both be honoured on a day that’s about ladies who kick ass…literally), but in keeping with the Ada Day theme, I decided to focus on two brainy girls that enchanted me as a child and have stuck with me through to today: Meg Murry (from Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet series) and Hermione Granger (from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series).
I’ll start with Meg, as I suspect that less of you may be familiar with her. If I’m correct and you have no idea who Meg is, and you love sci-fi/fantasy YA fiction, get thee to your local library/bookstore, pronto. A Wrinkle in Time, the first book in the Time Quartet, was one of my favourite books as a child, and upon re-reading it a few years ago, I happily discovered that it was just as spellbinding as an adult. (One of my biggest fears as a reader and lover of children’s/young adult literature is that I’ll re-read a book I loved as a kid and find it now falls flat for me.)
Meg is the novel’s lead protagonist, an awkward and self-conscious teenager, whose parents claim she’s brilliant (and she is!), even though she does poorly at school (except in math). A Wrinkle in Time is the story of how Meg, her little brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin travel to other planets in order to rescue Meg’s father, a scientist who was experimenting with time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. When I first encountered this book as a child, I definitely could relate to Meg, except for the time and space travel part, unfortunately. But the nerdy, brainy, self-conscious parts? Yup, I had that covered. Yet despite the fact that Meg initially sees these elements of her personality as drawbacks, during the course of the novel she learns that her individuality is in fact an asset, not a liability. Meg’s bravery, loyalty and love, in addition to her smarts, help her succeed in this book, and I like to think that all of this helped me succeed as a teenager, too. Meg’s unlikely triumph helped me to believe, at a very young age, that I could work through my self-conscious tendencies, too…while also helping me realize that maybe being a nerd wasn’t so bad, after all.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the scoop: Hermione is one of the three main characters in the Harry Potter series, and is one of the smartest girls to hit the children’s lit market in years. If brainy is now considered cool, I think we all have Miss Granger to thank for that. I first met Hermione in 1999, when my sister Ali returned from a summer in the U.K. with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone tucked into her luggage. Ali had eagerly devoured the book while she was away, and quickly forced it upon her impressionable younger sister who was about to turn 14. Just like my sister, I fell in love with the book instantly, and, as a self-conscious, nerdy kid, I instantly related to Hermione.
Where Meg is definitely uncomfortable with her misfit status, Hermione, on the other hand, isn’t remotely ashamed of her know-it-all attitude and social ineptitude. And, as such, not only did I relate to Hermione, but I also immediately admired her ability to embrace all parts of her personality at such a young age. Hermione sometimes also used her encyclopedic brain as a security blanket of sorts, shielding herself from revealing her insecurities. And while I’d never claim to being as smart as the star pupil of Gryffindor, I can relate to hiding behind one’s brains occasionally. Hermione constantly inspires me not only to be brilliant, but to be as comfortable with my true self as she is.
Meg Murry and Hermione Granger are two fictional heroines who have helped inspire me to become the woman I am today. In honour of Ada Lovelace Day, what women, real or fictional, have inspired you? Tell me about them in the comments!