Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Joan of Arc March 28, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie


Joan of Arc has been known by many names, including Jeanne d’Arc, the Maid of Orléans, and Saint Joan. Born in 1412, this illiterate peasant girl rose to fame when she stepped in to lead the French army during the Hundred Years’ War, an ongoing struggle between the British and French over who could claim and hold the French throne. Here are a few highlights of her life:

  • When she was 12 years old, she had her first Divine vision when Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret came to her in her family’s field and told her to help kick the British invaders out of the country. She later revealed her father had “dreamed [she] would go off with men-of-arms” and, he told her brothers, “in truth, if I thought this thing would happen which I have dreamed about my daughter, I would want you to drown her; and if you would not, I would drown her myself.” She soon left home—without first asking her father’s permission.
  • At 16, she presented herself to military leaders, won them over with a prophesy of victory, and got herself appointed as head of an army that was near defeat.
  • Under God’s guidance, Joan led the French army in significant victories. She earned the respect of her troops when she was shot in the neck with an arrow—and in another battle was hit in the helmet with a stone cannonball—and continued to lead.
  • Her success on the battlefield made it possible for Charles VII to take the throne.
  • Then she was captured, sold to the British, and imprisoned when Charles VII refused to pay her ransom. She was tried for heresy in a church court. “Everything I have done is at God’s command,” Joan testified, yet she was convicted, condemned, and burned at the stake. She was 19 at the time of her death.
  • Twenty-five years later, the Catholic Church reversed her sentence and made her a martyr. She was canonized in 1920 as a patron saint of France, as well as for military personnel, prisoners, and the Women’s Army Corps.

By 1750, average life expectancy in France was 25, which means it was even less 300 years earlier. Had she followed a traditional path, Joan would have spent her brief life working hard, marrying young, and giving birth to a number of children, of whom maybe half would survive infancy.

But no one called her maman. Instead, Joan mothered an army, aided an ungrateful boy-king, and saved her country.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.

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4 Responses to “Joan of Arc”

  1. Mali Says:

    I’ve always loved the Joan of Arc story. Thanks for including her in this fantastic series.

  2. Kathryn Says:

    “Life expectancy” quotes are a pet peeve of mine. (Y’all know i like you, so this isn’t a personal attack.)

    Life expectancy was so low those days because of childhood disease and because of poor living conditions/hygiene. If a child lived until its 5th birthday, life expectancy was close to what we see now.

    Child deaths at 0 (a week or two after birth), 1, 2, 3, 4 & adult deaths at age 60, 65, 70, 75, 80.

    The “average” life of these folks is 36. And you can see how these numbers could be lowered considerably if all the children had died before their first birthday (thus “0” for years).

    Sorry, just a pet peeve of mine because these numbers are used to say we live much longer these days when the truth is there are many fewer deaths in childhood.

  3. […] This post was originally published on March 28, 2011. […]


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