Amazing how many of these wimminfolk...er... have MOVIE REPRESENTATIONS of them on the site (I think the Wife of Bath escapes only due to the antiquity - and obviously somebody failed to notice the Demi Moore movie of "The Scarlet Letter" or I'm perfectly certain that SHE would have been there, too. Literature is something you read, but apparently it takes the big screen to make you a truly POWERFUL female character. But, okay, let's assume "literature" means both bookish and visual forms.
I won't pile on with my own ten. But I WILL, with your permission, offer you five.
1) Scheherezade. Not only is she IN literature, she single-handedly PROVIDED a substantial chunk of stories we know today - one thousand and one of them to be precise - and survived by dint of mastery of words alone to become Sultana. Beat THAT, Lisbeth Salander.
2)She WHo Must Be Obeyed - you want power? In a woman? HOW ABOUT IT BEING ENSHRINED IN HER *NAME*?
3)The Queen Bitch of them all, Ripley of Alien - I didn't see any of her male companions taking on the triple-jawed momma monster and living to tell the tale...
4)Delenn of Babylon 5 - a quiet but towering presence of power in the shadows, willing to make whatever sacrifices she needed to in order to make sure the universe was on the right path.
5)Fantine, from "les Miserables". If you only know her from the musical, that's powerful enough. But read the damned book. Just read it. She is tragic, and she is unforgettable. Being a "powerful" character in a piece of fiction doesn't mean that said character is simply good at kicking ass.It means the ability to worm her way into the hearts and minds of those who meet her in that context and to remain there long after the work of fiction is ended.
Oh, and please permit me one small indulgence, because I think she deserves to be here - one of my own, Xaforn from "Secrets of Jin Shei". I love that girl with all of my heart. She was special, special, special.
Well, then. Since March is Women's History Month, who would be on YOUR list if you chose to make one similar to the one above...?