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Joan of Arc Other women warriors in drag:
Sarah Edmonds
   Union Army spy
Deborah Sampson
   American revolutionary war hero
Mary Read:
   16th C. pirate
Hua Mulan:
   6th C. Chinese warrior.
Nadezhda Durova: 19th C. Russian soldier
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Joan of Arc

This teenager led the French army to victory in the Hundred Years War, a series of battles over the territory of Aquitaine in France that actually lasted over 100 years: from 1337 to 1453, to be exact. Charles VII, the intended king of France during Joan's lifetime, needed to be crowned in a cathedral in the city of Reims, which was controlled by the English, in order to be recognized as king by France. In 1428, an English attack on the city of Orleans which would have placed all of southern France under English rule was stopped by the French army, led by Joan, a 17-year-old peasant.

According to Joan, she began having visions of the saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret at the age of 13. These visions told her to drive the English out of the country so that Charles could be crowned. Joan dressed in soldier's clothes for her visit to Charles, who was soon convinced of her mission.

After the battle of Orleans and others, in which her army cleared the English from the surrounding Loire valley, Joan brought Charles to Reims for his coronation on July 17, 1429. Satisfied, Charles wanted to bargain with the English and their allies, but Joan wanted France for the French. In 1430, she was captured during the battle of Compiègne, sold to the English and imprisoned in shackles.

The English were eager to prove that Joan could have defeated them only by using witchcraft. They brought her to trial for sorcery and heresy and wanted her to deny that she had heard the voices of the saints and to remove the men's clothes that she wore, since this was a violation of Church rules. Joan refused, and after months in her dungeon and false promises of release from her captors on the condition she sign a statement and wear women's clothing, she again put on her soldier's clothes. For this disobedience she was sentenced to death, and on May 30, 1431 she was burned at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen.

In 1456, a mere 25 years later, Pope Calixtus III declared that Joan had been not guilty, and condemned the verdict against her.

In 1920, almost 500 years after her death, the Catholic Church canonized Joan.

Additional information may be viewed at The Gale Group.

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