That glass ceiling looks like a skylight when you consider the forces a working woman in early 19th-century Japan had to contend with. Orito Aibagawa is the facially scarred Japanese midwife-in-training from David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet who is studying medicine under a Dutch doctor, a privilege unheard of for a woman in her time and place and earned only by delivering a powerful magistrate's seemingly stillborn son. She goes on to be kidnapped by monks and detained in a nunnery, from where she escapes, managing in the process to blow the lid off a despicable, far-reaching scandal victimizing women and babies—in true Raiders of the Lost Ark fashion, no less. Above all, Orito believes that her talents for medicine and midwifery must be used to save lives and that she can't be distracted by little things like her own troubles or even the suitors vying for her affections. "Self-pity," she reminds herself, "is a noose dangling from a rafter." Scarred, underestimated and kidnapped by evil monks—hey, we all have our trials—Orito survives it all in total superhero style.
The Thousand Autums of Jacob de Zoet