The Center Woman’s Reading Club
Meeting of April 7, 2016
The Center Woman’s Reading Club met in the Reddit Room at the Fannie Brown Booth Memorial Library. Mrs. Dottie West was the hostess as well as program leader. President Janene Walker welcomed members.
After a brief business meeting, Dottie West presented the book Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured, by Kathryn Harrison. It is the story of a peasant teenage girl, with voices in her head and courage in her heart who, 600 years ago, rallied the French army and the people against the English and placed King Charles VII on the throne.
Joan was born in 1412, in northeastern France to poor tenant farmers. At the time of Joan’s birth, France was in the middle of the long-running war with England known as The Hundred Years’ War. By the early 15th century, northern France was a lawless frontier of marauding armies. Living in an agricultural community such as where Joan and her family lived, they did not have the protection and defense of those living in the walled cities. Therefore, armies, both English and French, threatened them, constantly.
Joan’s family was Catholic. Her mother was especially devout. Joan learned piety and domestic skills from her mother. Around the age of 12 or 13, Joan apparently began hearing voices and experiencing visions, which she interpreted as signs from God. At first the visions encouraged her to attend church and lead a pious life. Over time, they became more vivid and the Saints Michael and Catherine designated her as the savior of France. The Saints encouraged her to seek an audience with Charles, the heir to the throne, and ask his permission to expel the English and install him as the rightful King.
The Saints also instructed her to first meet with a commander and supporter of Charles. At first the Commander refused to meet her, but after seeing that she was gaining the approval of villagers her gave her a horse and an escort of several soldiers to go meet Charles. It was suggested that Joan dress more like a soldier and less like a peasant girl when meeting Charles, so Joan, cropped her hair and dressed in men’s clothes for her journey to Charles’ court.
At first, Charles did not know what to think of this peasant girl who claimed she would lead him to the throne. Prominent theologians examined and interrogated her. They reported that she was very pious and very smart.
Finally, Charles gave Joan armor and a horse and allowed her to accompany the army to Orleans, the site of an English siege. The French troops took control of the English fortifications. The people of Orleans were so excited to see her, they had to touch her and touch her horse. And during all the battles, Joan remained devout, attending Mass before or after every battle.
Charles was later crowned King of France and Joan was at his side.
A year later, Joan was thrown from her horse while in battle and captured by the enemy. She was tried in an English stronghold by an ecclesiastical court. King Charles did nothing to obtain her release. There were many charges against her including, sorcery and horse theft, but she was eventually found guilty of wearing men’s clothes and claiming God had directly contacted her. She was burned at the stake in the marketplace of Rouen, in 1431. She was 19 years old.
After her death, the Hundred Year War continued for another 22 years. In 1456, King Charles ordered an investigation into her case that declared Joan of Arc to be officially innocent of all charges and designated as a martyr. She was canonized as a saint on May 16, 1920, and is the patron saint of France.
Mrs. West served delicious refreshments and a time of fellowship followed the program.
The Center Woman’s Reading Club will be joining the Carthage Book Club on April 21, 2016. They will listen to author Gae Lynn Woods speak. They will meet at the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. Lunch will follow at the Bistro. This lovely event will take the place of the regularly scheduled April 21st meeting.