Friday, September 9, 2011

Listen to the Voices Within

Brenda Whiteside
When I was in the fifth grade, I took on a brave and fearless attitude. I could do anything and be anything I wanted to be. My femaleness would not prevent me from at least trying whatever I wanted. And when I was a child, females were often barred from a great number of things. This attitude drove me to enrolling in auto shop when I got to high school. I wasn’t allowed to take the class, but I sure tried. I stepped over the boundary whenever I could, if it suited me. I think the attitude has served me well, and I owe it to a woman whose achievements were monumental. In all of recorded history there has only been one woman who has held supreme command of a nation’s military forces – and she did it at the age of seventeen. My childhood idol was Joan of Arc, or Jeanne d’Arc.

She was born in 1412, the third of five children to a farmer and his wife in France. Her childhood was spent minding the herds in the fields, learning religion and housekeeping skills. When she was twelve, she began hearing voices. In the beginning they directed her to be a good child, study and work hard. But eventually these voices led her on a journey at the age of sixteen to convince the dauphin of France she was the one to free France from the English and make sure he took the throne.

Oh how romantic! My ten-year-old imagination was so taken with the story. Joan of Arc’s life is well documented in spite of the centuries that have passed since she led her troops against the English. She charged into battle carrying the banner but never killed anyone. The quotes from her and the transcripts of her trial after capture, show a spunky young woman with wisdom and courage beyond her age.

She always considered herself a common person following her destiny. When ladies brought her objects to touch, Joan laughed and said “touch them yourselves. They will be quite as good with your touch as mine.”

Unfortunately, her capture led to her death. She was handed over to a pro-English bishop who tried her for witchcraft and heresy. Joan wore men’s clothing, specially made for her small stature because it was appropriate clothing for the battlefield. Much was made of that and the fact she continued to insist she took her orders from God through the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. No matter what they did to her, she stood her ground.

She attempted to escape several times. They put her in chains because of that. Her response was, “it is true that I wished and still wish to escape, as is lawful for any captive or prisoner.”

Even after being jailed, she continued wearing men’s clothing for protection from rape. Men’s clothing was multi-layered. They would not put her in a women’s prison. Unfortunately, that sealed her fate. When a woman wore men’s clothing, the church considered it a crime against God. After fourteen months of interrogation, she was burned at the stake at the age of nineteen.

“She was perhaps the only entirely unselfish person whose name has a place in profane history.” – Mark Twain


Jerri Hines/Carrie James-Haynes said...

What a great blog! I can't even begin to imagine what she suffered for what she believed in. Inspiring woman- for anyone, male or female.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Thanks, Jerri. I got all inspired and heart pumping when I reviewed her life for this blog.

Laura Breck said...

A great role model for young women today. Always telling the truth. Great blog, Brenda. And I'm sorry you never got to take auto shop!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Thanks, Laura. Ha! Actually glad I didn't. I'd have no excuse to not push all the car problems off to my husband. What was I thinking?!

Lynne Marshall said...

Interesting stuff, this. Mr. Twain's quote is great, but he'd never heard of Mother Theresa during his lifetime.

I was also intrigued to find out that Calmaity Jane dressed like a man. Survival for many women has been very tricky throughout history. Of course Calamity didn't come close to Joan!

Jannine Gallant said...

Now Joan was a teen who got things done! I don't think kids today can hear the voices within through their cell phones. LOL I'm loving these daily mini history lessons. Thanks, Brenda.

Brenda Whiteside said...

No, Mother Theresa was a bit later! One note on her - I was surprised to know she only had one vision and all during her amazing life she hoped and prayed to experience that again but never did. And Calamity - my only knowledge of her is from a very old movie that was a funny romance so she brings a smile to my face.

Our teens now are hearing all kinds of voices aren't they? Ha! As most of us are. Too many all day long.

Susan Macatee said...

I always loved the story of Joan of Arc too! When I was growing up, it seemed movies and television shows all had the boys doing exciting things. On those rare occasions when a girl or woman was in the lead, even with Nancy Drew solving mysteries, I was captivated.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Susan - oh so right. We can identify a lot easier with the adventure within when the lead is a female.

Anthology Authors said...

I was a big fan of her too. In high school, I played co-ed waterpolo as there weren't any girl water polo teams. Luckily, our school didn't stop us from doing it. We had 11 girls on our team. We were tough and mouthy. LOL Playing against the guys made us stronger. :) I also happened to be the only girl in the Rifle Club. (g) Supposedly, some of the best sharpshooters are women because we have steadier hands. I wasn't in it very long, as it conflicted with swimming, but it was fun.

Great blog!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Wow. Good for you. What fun and memories.

Margaret Tanner said...

Great blog. Joan of Arc was one of my favourite heroines too. Didn't know about the men's clothing protecting her from rape, but sounds reasoanble when you think of it.



Monya Clayton said...

My favourite heroine as well. Her whole story is amazing, but undoubted. Her actual words were recorded during her trial, as Brenda said. The Trial Of Condemnation, and thirty years later The Trial Of Rehabilitation.

I own a precious tiny paperback called "Joan Of Arc: Self-Portrait" by Willard Trask. The paperback was issued by Collier Books in 1961 and the original by The Telegraph Press in 1936. Mr. Trask spent three years sifting the known documents and simply setting down Joan's (Jeanne's) own words. It is, as you can imagine, a deeply moving document.

There are hundreds of biographies, thousands of studies. The one I like is Joan Of Arc by Edward Lucie- Smith, published by Penguin London in 1976.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Monya, thank you so much for those resources. I don't own a book about her and will see if I can get either of them. Thanks again!