The Dauphin had heard of this girl from Domrémy who wished to see him. Rumor had it she won over the commandant of Vaucouleurs by predicting the outcome of the Battle of Rouvray. How intriguing. The rough soldiers who were bringing her apparently called her la Pucelle, “the Maid.” How amusing. The frivolous Dauphin, Charles VII, thought it a fine jest and hid giggling among his courtiers when she arrived. The girl entered, striking and sturdy in men’s garb and cropped hair, strode directly to the Dauphin, and said, “God has sent me to help you and the kingdom of France.”

So spoke a seventeen-year-old girl in 1429. And the battle to help the kingdom of God on earth is far from over—and it frequently involves a controversy of femininity. God often sends a woman to do His will in surprising ways, whether a Virgin to bear a Child or a farmgirl to lead an army. As a woman, Joan of Arc clashed for the good of Church and country, even as she was persecuted for her sex and her piety. And that persecution goes on and is as ancient as the mysterious tradition of the battle maiden, whether Amazon or Valkyrie.

But the reason why St. Joan stands out as a heroine is not because she was a prototype of women’s liberation, but because she carried out the orders of God under unusual circumstances.

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