"Conviction and Courage": From Joan of Arc to the Contemporary Woman Soldier

Open Access
Ridgway, Celine Anne
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Leisha J Jones, Thesis Supervisor
  • Dr. Marcy Lynne North, Honors Advisor
  • Joan of Arc
  • Deborah Sampson
  • solider
  • woman soldier
  • contemporary soldier
  • contemporary female soldier
  • women's rights
  • feminism
  • war
  • mother soldier
  • sexual assault in the military
  • France's military
  • U.S. military
To any passerby the story of Joan of Arc might be straightforward: She was a medieval woman that led the French army against England while cross-dressing —guided by the voices of saints — and eventually burned at the stake for heresy. However, Joan’s story is a far cry from simple, and her legacy is found in many different directions. In his Independent article, “The 600-year Struggle for the Soul of Joan of Arc,” John Litchfield says, “She belongs to all of us.” Litchfield expresses how Joan’s undertaking in the individual consciousness is fundamental in western modernity. I seek to answer what Joan of Arc’s death connoted to her contemporaries, and what her life signifies for women today. I will decipher if Joan’s military legacy meant something for future women of the world. One way to do this is through a cross-cultural analysis of France and the United States, two of the world’s strongest military forces. I will compare the French cross-dressing soldier to the American cross-dressing soldier and address the similarities and differences of these versions. I define Joan as a proto-feminist because her story is often thought of as the first recorded account of a woman successfully commanding a male-dominated sphere. This analysis of Joan leads into an investigation of the contemporary woman soldier and the ways in which she is depicted in popular culture across oceans.