Some of the women that are featured in the stories are very strong characters, for the times. LOTR was published during the 50's, when women were expected to be housewives and mothers. There was no Xena: Warrior princess (or similar fictional character in pop culture) to be an "example" for women.
Yet Tolkien managed to work Eowyn into the published book, a female character who wanted more than the life of a caregiver and who was willing to go to extremes to attain her goal. The Silmarillion had several other strong female characters as well, like Luthien, but it wasn't published until after Tolkien's death in the late 1970's.