My Three Favourite… Naughty Girls

6th Jun 2011


Well-behaved women rarely make history and it certainly seems to be the more mischievous characters in fiction that have earned my affections. It seems I’ve always had a soft spot for bad girls.

Before the days of admiring Lohan’s latest mug shot, before daydreaming that Winona would take me under her wing and let me be Oliver to her Artful Dodger, teaching me the ways of the criminal underworld and some five finger discount adventures. A look back at my childhood book collection reveals that my love of rebel girls runs deep.

The female fictional characters who I remember most fondly from my geekily not-so-misspent youth are certainly those on the more mischievous side. For whilst in reality I have always been Miss Goody Two Shoes, without a single detention to my name, these naughty but nice anti-heroines who allowed me to vicariously enjoy all sorts of mischief and misdemeanours without the risk of getting into trouble for myself:

Elizabeth Allen from The Naughtiest Girl in the School by Enid Blyton

An obvious choice, I know, but it can’t be denied that Enid Blyton does a jolly fine line in naughty school girls that had me begging my parents to send me away to boarding school. I lapped up tale after tale of the politics of tuckboxes, unruly school councils, complex webs of forever shifting female alliances and violent lacrosse fights.

Recent nostalgic visits back to Whyteleafe School and Malory Towers, via original paperback versions, have not disappointed. Blyton serves up the most gleefully twee versions of naughty.

Darrell Rivers from the Malory Towers series offers strong competition for my number one spot. She has a fiery temper, with a telling glint in her eye signalling that she’s about to explode in anger, and an admirable talent for coordinating classroom stunts and elaborate tricks such as ‘orgies of book slamming’ (surely an idea for a future For Books’ Sake event?).

However it would be wrong not to award Elizabeth Allen the accolade, after she fought so determinedly to achieve ‘naughtiest girl in the school’ status in her quest to be excluded to try and be excluded and then struggled to reform her bad behaviour and shake this title free for a following ten books.

Spoilt and scheming on the surface, we’re assured that Elizabeth has a heart of gold underneath. Her true, kinder nature is revealed throughout the series, but I always enjoyed the first instalments the most.

Once Darryl, Elizabeth and the other mischievous girls of Blyton’s boarding schools start to reform, they begin to remind me of myself and my fellow line-toting class mates too closely. These are girls who were bold enough to do the things I didn’t dare for fear of getting into too much trouble and I want them to stay that way.

Katy Carr from What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge

Katy is someone who, when I first read these books at an early age, I definitely wished I could be friends with in reality, even if I probably would be chasing after her, spoiling her adventures with my sensible regard for safety.

Katy is a bit of a tomboy who is forever dreaming up plans and new ambitions. With no concern for being perceived as ‘good’, her hair forever tangled in wild knots, torn dresses and scraped knees, Katy is a perfect anti-heroine.

She struggles to stay out of trouble as she forgets things, makes mistakes and loses her temper and is a character that is very easy to relate to in her constant struggles to balance her desire to be better behaved to please her family with the pull of her active daydreaming and scheming.

So what did Katy go and do? She got rather ill and as a result of months spent in bed transformed into a much ‘nicer’ but less exciting character by the end of the books. Which is a bit of a shame really as naughty Katy was a lot of fun.

Oh naughty girls of the world, resist reform! Authors, make them get naughtier if anything. It makes for such better stories when they’re making mischief.

Mildred Hubble from The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

The well-loved Worst Witch series takes the Blyton tradition of boarding school hijinks and gives it a pre-Potter magical twist. At the age of twelve I was such a fan of these books and their strong characters, even exchanging a series of letters with Murphy and sharing with her how they reflected our own schooling experiences at schools not far apart from each other.

Mildred Hubble, witch in training, is constantly having to face the anger and scorn of her teachers and fellow pupils for her innocent mistakes she makes. From the start, she is labelled a trouble maker due to her clumsiness and bad luck.

Whoops, she turned the class bitch into a pig instead of a frog. Happens to the best of us, eh? Even more so than Katy Carr, Mildred Hubble isn’t intentionally badly-behaved, and in trying to resolve the disastrous situations she finds herself caught up in difficult dilemmas and breaking the rules.

Enid Nightshade, another character featuring in the books series, is actually more intentionally meddlesome and prone to practical jokes, so perhaps the most genuinely naughty of the group.

But whereas in the TV adaptations of the books Enid is played by that annoying one from Hollyoaks, whereas Mildred is a young, pre-The Craft Fairuza Balk. So ten more naughty points to Mildred for that fact.

I am very much destined to be like Mildred’s faithful, sensible spectacled friend Maud Moonshine who warns her off her latest adventures. Whilst these three characters strive to reform from their naughtiness, I am resigned to the fact I’m just too well-behaved.

So, which other naughty girls have I failed to mention? The comic capers of Beryl the Peril or Minnie the Minx, perhaps? For what omission do I deserve to be sent to the headmistress’ office? What about literature recommendations featuring fully-grown culprits too?

Want more women behaving badly? Have a nosey at our three favourite fictional female villains and three favourite fictional tomboys, or check out Angela Carter‘s collection of Wayward Girls and Wicked Women.

Nikki Shaill

(Image courtesy of collectivenouns’ Flickr photostream)


  • Jane Bradley says:

    Love this feature! So many fond memories. I absolutely loved the Malory Towers series, and the St. Clare’s series too, which I remember moving onto as a way of remedying my heartbreak at having read every last one of the Malory Towers adventures.

    Can’t believe Fairuza Balk played Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch TV film adaptation – I knew there was a reason why I was so smitten by her when I first saw The Craft!

  • Cathy says:

    Ahem- My Naughty Little Sister?

  • Boomskilpaadjie says:

    What a brilliant feature. Loving it….could I controversially suggest the addition of the entire student body of Ronald Searle’s St Trinian’s?

  • Tara says:

    Great feature – I’ve always related to Mildred because I too am clumsy…

  • Kerry says:

    I loved What Katy Did so much when I was younger but then I made the mistake of re-reading it as an adult. So preachy and holier than thou. And you’re right she is so dull by the end of the book. Boo! Though I loved it at the time.

    Great feature but you didn’t include Anne of Green Gables…how could you?! Anne was the ultimate tomboy forever pushing Gilbert in ponds. She was my kindred spirit. She even made me wish I had ginger hair…

  • L1nds says:

    Marmalade Atkins – as far as I remember she NEVER became well behaved! I loved her so much, I was a good girl too but wanted to behave like she did!! She was definitely my favourite bad girl but I loved all of the ones in the article too.

  • Nikki Shaill says:

    Ah, I must confess I haven’t read Anne of Green Gables. I do respect her for her ginger power though. Pippi Longstocking is another fiery, freckled red head who I thought should probably make it onto the list…Are red head girls really naughtier? Discuss!

  • Kristina says:

    One of my favourites is a huge spoiler – so stop if you happen to want to read kids’ classic The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler!

    The whole way though the book, you think Tyke – athletic, naughty, climbing on roofs – is a boy… she’s actually called Theodora! The book is written without revealing her gender until the end. If you’ve got children or are a teacher, I recommend it so much: I fully remember the pleasure and shock our whole class of 9-10 year olds got out of reading it!