I realized two things. First, I had the character's need wrong. Taking a page from Abraham Maslow's Personality Theories, I thought Srila slotted into the "esteem" category. But no, her needs are more basic than that, and it is "safety" that drives her. That led to my second realization.
Srila is responsible for the inciting incident in this story, but it doesn't make sense for this to be her first attempt to set things right. She's in her thirties, and she's a mother. She's frightened for her daughter's future, which has been threatened for years now; in fact, Srila lost her own mother because of the threat. So there's no way that she just "woke up" at the point where I need her intervention in the book.
No, she's been fighting for years. And that has to affect her attitude about her latest attempt. It has to affect the attitudes of those around her, some who must admire her, some who think she's a crackpot, etc.
I may not have her voice down yet, but I do have a deeper look into her combat. And that is going to help me--finally!-- be able to relate to her fully enough to make a decent stab at bringing her to life.