Joan of Arc


I read the passage on Joan of Arc from A History of Their Own; Women in Europe Volume 1 by Bonnie Anderson and Judith Zinsser. I was immediately engrossed in the story of her determination and drive to succeed, and later survive, in the single sex world of that time. I found it amazing that she lived only 19 years, yet was able to make such a lasting impact on history that she is still revered over 500 years after her death. Her persecution and death were products of men who feared women with the courage to claim authority and act on their own wills. Women who submitted to men were valued, and those who challenged menís authority were called witches and heretics and were killed in the name of God. It has been only in recent history that these attitudes have begun to change.
The forces driving Joan to accomplish all that she did were the voices of saints that she believed spoke to her. Saint Michael and the angels appeared to her for the first time when she was 13. After the first appearance, Joan made a vow of virginity, increased her devotions, and made frequent visits to surrounding religious landmarks. From then on, they often came to her and told her of all that she must accomplish for France. The voices gave her very clear instructions that she must relieve the siege at Orleans, see the Dauphin crowned at Rheims, free the Duke of Orleans, and regain Paris. By age sixteen she was focused enough on all of these goals to begin acting on them.
By persistently informing those in power of her mission, Joan finally made her way into battle at the age of seventeen. During that year, she had convinced many of the elite of France that she was the virgin sent by God to save France. She was questioned by churchmen and found to be devout in her beliefs. The Kingís Council endorsed her and she went off to Orleans to prove herself. She fought with the French and English soldiers in at least seven battles.
Joan was able to accomplish her first three goals. After the Dauphin was crowned, the military returned to inactivity. But, Joan refused to return home because her final task of recapturing Paris had not yet been accomplished. She continued to fight against the will of the King. Her army was defeated and she was held for ransom. The Dauphin never tried to free her. After all of his support, he completely turned his back to her.
Eventually, custody of Joan was given to the English. They recognized her powers, but saw her as evil, not holy. Since she said the voices came from God, they allowed the church to question her. Because the English controlled Paris and the scholars at the university there, they were able to guarantee that the outcome of the trial would be as they desired. During the questioning, she was allowed no counsel. The questioners tried to confuse and trick her and threatened torture. Throughout all of it, Joan never wavered in her faith or changed her story. She was taken to be executed, and there she agreed to confess to the charges against her in order to save her life. A week later, after the voices had told her how wrong it had been of her to denounce God, she repealed her statement of confession and was burned at the stake as a heretic.
The most remarkable aspect of Joanís personality, in my opinion, was her ability to hold firmly to her beliefs and convictions, even though they were completely radical and unacceptable in that time period. She challenged every societal standard for peasant women. She did not follow her parentís orders, asked for help from those of higher social classes, and did not act as typical female roles permitted. Even though those in power denounced her as unfeminine and heretic, she was able to find a power within herself and God to give her the strength to go beyond societal standards of class and sex roles.
I believe that the main cause of Joanís downfall were men that feared a woman who could command so much power and respect. Never before had any woman challenged