Not many European ladies evoke grander visions of heroism than Joan of Arc. 15th-century heroine of the Hundred Years War, she encapsulates the French struggle against the British. Amid a struggle for control over continental Europe, young Joan saw visions of saints encouraging her to work on behalf of French rule. The French people have immortalized her struggle for the nation, especially her divine calling and her execution by her enemies as a cross-dresser (she wore male armor for battle and for protection).
While she might not meet the current French ideals of lady’s fashion – Erté would exchange her armor for a flowing gown and Louis Vuitton’s modern designers would replace her sword with a handbag – Joan of Arc and her valor remain a symbol of French nationhood and morality. She has inspired numerous memorials, including several films.
No less a personage than Ingrid Bergman, mid-century deacon of the film industry, fought to portray her on the silver screen. Three decades later, Bergman would portray that other great woman of valor (who some have also accused of appearing too manly), Golda Meir, in A Woman Called Golda (1982).