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Determined Widow

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Particularly common in The Western, this is often the widow's version of the Damsel in Distress. However, due to more life experience, the Determined Widow is usually more assertive and less passive in combating her foes. She might even tell The Hero that she doesn't need his help, even though, unlike the Damsel, she often has children dependent on her and therefore also in danger. Usually a young widow if she is in distress, as older widows are more likely to be depicted as competent enough not to need saving.

The Hero (or The Protagonist) protects the widow from a dastardly villain attempting to take advantage of her (either romantically, or simply stealing from her because she has no man to protect her). Sometimes the villains were the ones who killed her husband, and so the goal is to avenge her husband. This is particularly common in The Western, especially when the hero is The Drifter.

Often the Hero ends up getting to marry the widow at the end, and this can be a reason for The Drifter to finally settle down. In fact, widow Love Interests have a better chance at getting to keep The Drifter than other Love Interests, who tend to win his love only for him to drop a "But Now I Must Go" because He Wants His Beloved To Be Happy.

Older Determined Widows are more likely to appear as advisers to the Heroes.


Determined Widows also often insist on achieving their dead husband's dream. If their husband was a warrior and he fell in battle they might even "Take Up His Sword" and become an Action Girl or Lady of War and continue his fight.

Compare House Wife and Determined Homesteader's Wife, which is what they were likely to be before being widowed. Her Heart Will Go On for the widow's strength in dealing with the loss. Do NOT confuse with Yamato Nadeshiko which is an aspect of Japanese culture; while they can overlap, all they have in common is the inner core of iron will. Does not necessarily have anything to do with another type of widow.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Suzumi Aogiri from Ceres, Celestial Legend doubles as this and Yamato Nadeshiko. After her husband died and she miscarried their child, she decided to bring herself back to her feet, help her husband's half-brother Yuuhi, and then join Aya's cause as a fellow Tennyo.
  • There was one of these in Kyo Kara Maoh!.
  • The title character in The Legend of Mother Sarah lost her husband and her kids in a riot. Subverted in that her husband has actually survived the riot... only to die in the finale, making Sarah a widow for good.
  • Admiral Lindy Harlaown from Lyrical Nanoha lost her husband when a military operation to seal an Artifact of Doom went wrong, leaving her to raise their four-year-old son by herself. Eleven years later, she would lead the following attempt, ultimately being the one to wipe out its Eldritch Abomination form with her ship's Wave-Motion Gun.
  • Shun Mitaka seemed intent on viewing Kyoko of Maison Ikkoku as one, (and himself as the hero of course).
  • Male version: Faust VIII from Shaman King, a Necromantic whose goal in life is to revive his dead wife and Spirit partner Eliza.
  • Though she didn't marry him, Hana from Wolf Children takes care of the two children she had with the Wolf Man without ever regretting it or giving up.

    Comic Books 
  • Jodie from Preacher (NOT to be confused with Jody, also from Preacher)
  • Khrissalla in White Sand - she travels to a foreign and hostile land and is fixed on fulfilling her fiance's dying wish of finding the "Sand Mages" of Dayside.

    Fan Works 
  • Deconstructed in Frostbitten Flower. Takakura doesn't think it's healthy that Celia is doing so much around the farm only days after her husband's death. It's not a healthy way of grieving.

    Films — Animated  
  • In Coco, Mamá Imelda single-handedly starts a successful shoe business to take care of her family after her husband left the family. She also imposes a ban on music to all her family members and those who married into the family, which manages to last for at least three generations. When she realizes that her husband was actually murdered by his friend as he was attempting to return home, she does everything she can to help restore her husband's picture on the family's offrenda to save him, even directly confronting the villain in order to retrieve the picture.
  • In The Secret of NIMH, Mrs. Brisby is a widowed mouse whose family has to move in order to avoid the farmer's plow but her son Timothy has come down with pneumonia and can't be moved for a few weeks. She will do whatever it takes to move her whole house in order to protect him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Canyon Passage, Mrs. Dance starts as a Determined Homesteader's Wife but becomes a determined widow after her husband and eldest son are killed in an Indian raid. She outright refuses suggestions that she and her family should move into the relative safety of town, instead choosing to remain on the homestead she and her husband settled and unwilling to allow anyone or anything to drive her off her land.
  • In Coroner Creek, Della Harms is the widow owner of the Bar H ranch, who is determined not to all Younger Miles and the Rainbow Ranch to squeeze her off her land, and hires Chris Danning to help her.
  • The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course: The man from the Fish and Fauna Department mentions in passing that Brozzie's husband died a while ago. Brozzie herself is tough as nails, quick to pull a shotgun on crocodiles or human invaders who she perceives as a threat to her ranch and animals.
  • A Dangerous Life, set in the Philippines toward the end of the Marcos dictatorship, features Historical Domain Character Cory Aquino, the widow of assassinated senator Ninoy Aquino who was the regime's most visible critic; the last half of the film shows her slowly-building political campaign, which eventually turns into a presidential campaign when the Marcoses allow a snap election, which turns into the People Power "Revolution" that deposes them and installs Cory in its place (see the Real Life section below for more info).
  • Sarah McKlennar in Drums Along the Mohawk: when the Mohawks come to burn her house, she actually gets them to take her bed downstairs instead of setting it on fire. She also takes part in the climactic battle, suffering a fatal wound in the breast from an arrow.
  • Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind, however she is the (anti)hero. She doesn't take up the role of her husbands (she was widowed twice), but rather the role of her father as leader of the farm.
  • Jane in Gunless is determined to make a success of the farm she and her husband settled before he died. Or abandoned her. (She tells both stories.)
  • In Roger Corman's film Gunslinger (as seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000), Beverly Garland's heroine is the widow of a U.S. Marshal who takes up her husband's badge to keep hunting down the ones responsible for having her husband murdered.
  • In None Shall Escape (a 1944 film about a trial against a Nazi officer following the end of the then-ongoing second world war, told via flashbacks from the points of view of the witnesses at the trial), Marja mentions at the beginning of her testimony that her husband was killed during the Nazi invasion of Poland. She spends the rest of the movie being pretty openly hostile to the Nazis, Wilhelm in particular.
  • Jill McBane from Once Upon a Time in the West, although she's somewhat of a deconstruction since she was a Hooker with a Heart of Gold looking for a new life and arrives on the scene after her new family is massacred.
  • Edna in Places in the Heart, who finds herself in a lot of trouble after her husband is unexpectedly killed and she finds herself without a breadwinner, with two children to support, and with a heavily mortgaged farm. She proceeds to work her ass off to plant and harvest a field of cotton to save her farm.
  • Rob's mother, Lady Margaret Campbell MacGregor, in Rob Roy The Highland Rogue, uses her kinship to the Duke of Argyll in terms of political influence. She also takes up a pistol to fight to defend her home against an attack by Montrose's men. She shoots a man dead, concealing her own wound in the side (or possibly breast — being Disney, the film avoids showing bleeding or bullet hole) so that Rob can get away. She then dies in her daughter-in-law's arms.
  • Sarah Devlin in Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend. Even after her husband David is killed by the Indians, she is determined to stay on her land and raise her two children. She even gives her brother-in-law Buck her prized locket (which had belonged to David and Buck's mother) to sell to buy the supplies needed by the settlement.
  • Used in the indie-western/horror film Shroud, the heroine discovers she's a widow after arriving in the eponymous town, and later literally takes up her husband's sword to fight evil.
  • Rosanna Arquette in Silverado who, after her husband is killed, agrees to work her land with her neighbor. She realizes that, although she was pretty when she is young, that will "fade in time," but her farm will last.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah Connor was a fighter who would do anything to protect her son John from the machines. She was only figuratively a widow (she and John's father never having had the benefit of clergy) but fits the trope in every other way.
  • In the wuxia film Vengeful Beauty, the titular protagonist is an assassin and killing machine who loses her husband while pregnant with her first child, and will stop at nothing - even battling a whole army - to kill the warlord responsible for ordering her husband's death.

  • Amalia: The novel is set during the Argentinian Civil War. The Title Character is a widow who is eager to support the Unitarian cause by housing the injured Byronic Hero Eduardo Belgrano.
  • Victoria Lipan in Baltagul (The Axe/The Hatchet) chases her disappeared husband, backtracking his long trip obsessively. She finds his skeleton in a ravine and pursues his killers with equal stubbornness and success.
  • Technically, the Princess Rennsaeler and the other princesses in A Brother's Price. They're part of a world where women are the people who fight and rule, so it's pretty well expected of them. Odelia does end up in distress and needing Jerin to rescue her at the start of the book.
  • Mary Breydon in The Cherokee Trail by Louis L'Amour.
  • Judith from the book Judith of the Bible: when her village is under siege, she puts on some make-up, goes to Holofernes, the enemy general, takes him to his tent, makes him drunk, cuts off his head, sneaks out of the enemy camp and goes back into her village, with the head of Holofernes in her bag.
  • The title character of the young adult novel "Mama Had a Little Store", who after the death of her husband in the Spanish Flu epidemic just before they had planned to open their store runs the store with the help of her sister (whose marital status is unclear).
  • So Big: Selina, continuing to work her husband's farm after his unexpected death, and eventually making a success out of it. All the ignorant peasants of High Prairie are shocked and horrified when Selina, a woman, takes her produce to Haymarket herself for sale. She turns out to be a far better farmer than her late husband was.
  • Catelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin becomes this when her husband is killed, mostly as a result of Honor Before Reason, she is determined to get her revenge by waging war against the Lannister family and supporting her son as King of the North.
    • Goes further after the Red Wedding where many of the surviving Starks, including Catelyn, are killed. She Came Back Wrong as a Knight Templar and moves closer to a Determinator Lady of War in her revenge.
    • Daenerys becomes an example after her husband Drogo dies.
    • Even before the above two, Cersei Lannister and Lysa Arryn qualify as well.
  • In Star Wars: Kenobi, a Space Western, the Deuteragonist Annileen Calwell took over her husband's store after he was killed by Sand People, and manages her children, her customers, and her business partner Orrin Gault through sheer force of personality, even as she suppresses her own desires under the daily grind. Ben Kenobi provides a welcome breath of fresh air but resists their growing feelings out of a combination of Jedi strictures against relationships and the need to protect his secret guardianship of Luke Skywalker.
  • Temeraire: Laurence hires the widowed Mrs. Pemberton in Crucible of Gold to chaperone Emily Roland and provide Lessons in Sophistication, much to Roland's distaste. However, she proves a reliable and level-headed member of Laurence's crew on several long, dangerous missions; saves Laurence's life by killing his assailant; and asks for weapons training so she can take better care of herself.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Carnival Row: Vignette wears a widow's braid in mourning for Philo (before she learns he is alive) and she's quite a strong young woman, fighting any enemy with vigor.
  • Alma Garrett from Deadwood is a 30-year-old New Yorker, moved to Deadwood with her new husband Brom Garret. Brom buys a gold claim through Al Swearengen and is later murdered on Swearengen's orders following a dispute about the claim. Although initially thought to be worthless, the claim actually turns out to be a rich one. Now stranded in Deadwood and dealing with attempts by Swearengen to buy the claim back, the widow Garret decides to try her luck on the new frontier rather than sell the claim to return east.
  • Game of Thrones: Drogo's death galvanizes Daenerys into action, first by hatching the eggs, and culminating (for now) in the conquest of Slaver's Bay.
  • Lily Bell from Hell on Wheels embodies this trope to a 'T' in every regard. She wants to see to the completion of the first Transcontinental Railway, a project which her late husband (a surveyor) had been working on.
  • Mags Bennett from Justified is a villainous version. After her husband died she raised her three sons and built a massive marijuana growing operation. When Raylan returns to Kentucky she is one of the most feared and respected criminals in the area.
  • Elizabeth Bryant from the Murdoch Mysteries episode "Murdoch of the Klondike" runs one of the two hotels in a formerly booming mining town in the Yukon. Murdoch returns to the town from his claim site to find she's been arrested for killing a rival hotel owner. She asserts her innocence, and when she learns he was once a police detective, she wants his help to clear her name—so much that when he initially refuses, she berates him from her cell, shouting "You're NOTHING!" at him as he leaves. Later, after he's bailed her out of jail and started to investigate, she learns he suspects a friend of the deceased who's buying up mining claims and she goes to physically confront the man in a local hotel barroom. Murdoch finally has her return to jail so he can investigate without her "help". In a quieter conversation, Murdoch asks her why she stays, and she cites the fact that her husband is buried there and insists the hotel provides enough of a living for her. She even flirts openly with Murdoch, hoping he'll stay with her, but he demurs.
  • In Supernatural, they meet the widow of a hunter, Ellen Harvelle, who is running a bar for hunters. She is an adviser to the boys. Later Sheriff Jody Mills takes up the fight against the supernatural, after her husband's horrific death.
  • When Calls the Heart begins three months after a coal mine explosion created several dozen determined widows.

    Religion & Myth 
  • The Parable of the Persistent Widow in The Bible Luke 18v1-8 invokes the determined widow in an argumentum a fortiori for the sort of motivation that might be involved in prayer.
  • Khadijah, the first wife of Muhammad, was a wealthy and successful businesswoman (having taken over her late husband's business). When she married Muhammad, she helped him out a lot financially, as well as in other ways, and continued to run her business.

    Video Games 
  • Ashelia B'Nargin Dalmasca of Final Fantasy XII is a widow while still in her teens and determined to ensure Archadia feels her wrath of justice.
  • The entire point of the Planescape module for Neverwinter Nights 2 is for the PC (who must be female) to find a way into the Abyss and get her husband back.
  • Red Dead Redemption II has a couple of examples:
    • Mrs. Sadie Adler is a nuanced example. Her homestead was attacked and her husband killed by the O'Driscoll gang, and she only survived because the O'Driscolls' rivals, the Van der Linde gang, saved her and took her in. Over the course of the story, Sadie becomes a badass gunslinger in her own right who seeks violent retribution against the O'Driscolls, though other characters note how much the violence has changed her, calling her a "ghost" at one point. By the epilogue, Sadie has become a well-regarded bounty hunter, but has become so hollow that she casually tells another character she "wants to die".
    • Charlotte Balfour, the widow of Willard's Rest, is a slightly more traditional example. She and her husband were wealthy folks from the city who decided to try their hand at rural life, only to find it harder than they expected. After the husband's death, Charlotte expects to starve and die herself, but protagonist Arthur Morgan teaches her a few tips on surviving in the wilderness and eventually she settles into a not-unhappy rural life. It even seems for a moment like she has romantic feelings for Arthur, but Arthur's impending death from tuberculosis puts a dampener on things.
  • Both female pardners in West of Loathing are widows who join you seeking vengeance.
    • Doc Alice's late husband Elliot was one of the first raised as the Necromancer's thrall.
    • Susie Cochrane's husband Tim and two children were killed in a cow attack on their homestead.


    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Marya becomes a dark version of this after her husband Kagetsu bites the dust. She doesn't take his death well, and after a long period of mourning, she becomes fixated on making Kagetsu's dream become real, going so far as kidnapping and corrupting a prince to do her bidding while acting as his Evil Mentor, setting the stage for a brutal civil war in Maar Sul, and subtly opposing the Grand Alliance which she had once called friends. Once she has done all this and made sure that the prince will carry out her mission, she is overcome by guilt of all the horrible things she has done to achieve her husband's dream, and she commits suicide to be reunited with Kagetsu in the afterlife.

    Real Life 
  • Susan McSween, who after her husband and friends were murdered during the Lincoln County War, went on to become a prominent cattlewoman in New Mexico.
  • Lillian Moller Gilbreth continued the time/motion and efficiency studies of her husband Frank after his death in the 1930s. While raising eleven children (all of whom eventually graduated college). The story is recounted in Belles on Their Toes, and was fictionalized in the 1950 novel and film Cheaper By the Dozen.
  • Maria Corazon "Cory" Sumulong Cojuangco Aquino, wife and widow of Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., and probably one of, if not THE most Determined Widow in recent history. Her husband was the primary political opponent of the dictator (though his official title was "President") of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos. Ninoy had been exiled to the United States, and on the day of his arrival back to the Philippines, he was assassinated via Boom, Headshot!. Ninoy's death was the catalyst that drove the people of the Philippines into a non-violent revolution against the oppressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos, led by Cory herself. Long story short, Marcos was booted out of office, and Cory became the 11th President of the Philippines and returned the country back to democracy. Ninoy later had the Manila International Airport renamed in his honor, and it is now officially known as the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The anniversary of his death was made into a national holiday, and his portrait is on the 500 peso bill along with one of his most famous quotes "The Filipino is worth dying for." His wife's portrait later joined his in a reprinting of the bill after she passed away in 2009 (which in turn prompted their son—Benigno III, a.k.a. Noynoy—to run himself for president in 2010, which he won—in a way qualifying him for the title of "Determined Orphan", as both of his parents were now dead by this point).
    • This trope is actually common in Philippine politics: the phenomenon of grieving wives or relatives running to supposedly "continue the legacy" of their dead loved onesnote , often regardless of whether they're competent to run or serve in office themselves. Current vice president Leni Robredo, as one example, decided to run for Congress in 2013 (and then the vice-presidency in 2016), after her husband, erstwhile Interior & Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, died in a plane crash in 2012. Critics took to calling her a Generation Xerox of Cory Aquino (even if they weren't directly related) given all the parallels—a yellow motif, a grieving and very devoutly Catholic widow, and an association with the Philippine Liberal Party, although Cory herself never declared as a Liberal. However many pointed out that the parallels are actually different due to their educational and family backgrounds. Robredo distances herself from the Liberal Party and never uses her husband's death when she campaigns for president in the upcoming 2022 elections.