One of the finest examples of ambitious women can be found in Baby Face, the pre-code Warner Bros. film that starred Barbara Stanwyck. This clip provides a sense of it, and a clue as to why the trailer for the film boldly assured us that "it was fatal to offer her love."
Stanwyck was one of several actresses that took on strong and provocative roles before the Hayes Code clamped down on Hollywood moviemaking in 1934. Others included Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Ginger Rogers, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, Claudette Colbert and Joan Blondell. One could argue that the strong female leads and narratives were one of the major provocations that led to the imposition of the code.
A scene with Blondell from Footlight Parade (1933):