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Happy Bachelor's Day: Literary Heroines who Pop the Question

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 28, 2020

Tomorrow is Leap Day, also known as Bachelor's Day. This is the day on which, according to folklore, women are encouraged to propose marriage to their fellow of choice. Of course, it only happens once ever four years. This tradition is believed to been introduced in the fifth century by an Irish nun named St. Brigid. It's strange how revolutionary the idea still seems to many. Even today it's rare to see this scenario in literature or pop culture, but we've pulled together a roundup of instances we came across. Here are ten literary ladies who pop the question. Warning: Some of these descriptions contain spoilers!

Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (1595)

Many of William Shakespeare's heroines took the bull by the horns in their relationships. After falling in love with Romeo, Juliet is the first to propose the idea of marriage, saying, "If that thy bent of love be honorable, Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow." Romeo is quick to jump on board, though the final outcome wasn't ideal for these lovebirds.

Catherine in Daniel Deronda (1876)

Just a side character in George Eliot's novel, Catherine Arrowpoint is a wealthy young woman who marries her music teacher, much to the dismay of her family. In suggesting the union to Herr Klesmer, she says, "Why should I not marry the man who loves me, if I love him?"

Horatia in The Convenient Marriage (1934)

Georgette Heyer's juicy historic novels draw comparisons to Jane Austen. When the Earl of Rule proposes to her sister Lizzie, Horatia offers herself instead since her sister is already in love with someone else. She's no beauty, but Horatia is willing to sacrifice herself for her family's happiness, promising to stay out of the Earl's way and make him a good wife. Love is an unexpected outcome.

Polly in Love In A Cold Climate (1949)

One of Nancy Mitford's most beloved novels, this is the story of Polly Hampton, a young woman who has been groomed for the perfect marriage by her mother, the haughty Lady Montdore. But Polly has another plan in mind, shattering her mother's dreams when she offers herself to the (entirely unsuitable) man of her own choosing. She says, "I always knew that I should have to do the proposing, and I did."

Winter in Shadow of the Moon (1956)

In a romance often described as Gone With the Wind set in India, M. M. Kaye presents the story of beautiful English heiress Winter De Ballesteros returning home to her beloved India. Captain Alex Randall is assigned to be her escort on the journey and the two begin to fall in love. Only one problem: Winter is already engaged to Alex's boss. A complicated relationship for sure.

Fiona in The Bear Came Over The Mountain (2001)

Included in Alice Munro's short story collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage is the story of Fiona and Grant, a longtime married couple with a complicated history. Early in their relationship, out on a hike: "Do you think it would be fun — " Fiona shouted. "Do you think it would be fun if we got married?"

Juliet in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2008)

In the wake of WWII, writer Juliet Ashton embarks on a trip to the island of Guernsey to research her next book. Authors Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows introduce a charming cast of characters, including Dawsey whom Juliet falls for, eventually blurting out, "I want to ask you something . . . Would you marry me? I'm in love with you, so I thought I'd ask."

To be honest, we had kind of a hard time finding literary lasses who ask for their fellow's hands. It's a bit surprising that, in this day and age, it is still so unusual for the girl to ask for her guy's hand. Come on women! Be assertive! In any case, we're sure there must be more of these spunky female characters in some of your favorite books. Let us know if you have any to add to the list.

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