Heroines ≠ Xena Warrior Princess
I've gone on record before with my pet-peeve about "D&D Warrior Babes" and "Xena Warrior Princess" type heroines, especially in film. I had an opportunity to go on a little mini-rant on this topic on our recent Desolation of Smaug episode of Swords and Space Radio. I recommend you listen to the show, but here's just a real quick recap:
It irks me how female protagonists always seem to have to be cast in the mould of warrior women. That is, basically male archetype characters inside female bodies. Some might accuse me of being reactionary and/or misogynistic, but if you ask me the real misogyny is this concept that for a woman to be worth anything she has to basically be a man. Whereas in reality there is such a great wealth of feminine characteristics and so many great womanly heroics that are ignored.
I find it especially infuriating when film adaptations of books "warrior-ize" strong non-combatant female characters from the novel, or add ones that never existed in the original work (#1 reason I haven't watched John Carter of Mars yet).
Now, since I always try to be about proposing solutions rather than just complaining, let me propose some real-world women who were real heroines without being she-men and kicking butt, for your consideration (and at the same time giving me some ideas to store away for future use in my own writing!) -- unfortunately time permits but a very few examples off the top of my head:
River Tam-style, or gunning them down. But in reality what she did was dance in secret productions to raise money (the fuel of war) for the resistance. She also occasionally ran messages. If she'd been caught she would have been executed, so this was no less courageous than playing at G.I. Jane and it made good use of her particular talents and feminine graces.
Armée catholique et royale faced the elite French regiment called "the Invincible Mayençais" at the Battle of Torfou. The Vendéens were forced to retreat in the face of vastly superior forces, but they were blocked by their womenfolk praying at a shrine in the rear. Instead of taking up arms and fighting the republican troops themselves, the women angrily reproached and mocked the manhood of the fleeing soldiers, who then turned and fought, and won the day against overwhelming odds.