Heroines of the Medieval Past and Modern Era
The world is filled with expected and unexpected events that can either bring forth happiness or depression. In line with this, these types of scenarios can either produce antagonists or protagonists. Many will emerge as adversaries of the status quo and also many will arise as patrons of conventions whether for the good of the few or for the defeat of the many. Throughout history, numerous significant events have transpired that have changed the lives of many people and social conditions from all the places in the world. These events are composed of struggle for independence, war disputes for territory, resistance on discrimination and others. In these undertakings, many have failed to pursue for their objectives but many also have succeeded in achieving their goals. More so, in every group effort for a solitary intention, a leader needs to surface in order to organize the group’s actions in one direction. Meanwhile, there have been instances when things happened spontaneously without any plan or expectations. The only element present in this kind of situation is an instigator. Agitation is one factor that can cause life-changing events that have altered the course of history. The story of Rosa Parks who was dubbed as the “mother of the civil rights movement” and the tale of a French heroine who is famously known as St. Joan of Arc are two examples of a modern-day hero and a historical heroic figure who have conquered challenges and brought forth hope and freedom to mankind. For Rosa Sparks, her simple resistance started a global movement for equal rights while St. Joan of Arc fought for the freedom of France.
In the 15th century, Joan of Arc was born as the third child of a farmer and his wife at the town of Domremy in France. She spent majority of her childhood studying about religion. At the age of 12 years old, she claimed that she started to hear the “voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret” who all told her that her “divine mission is to free her country from the English and help the dauphin gain the French throne.” More so, she was told that to be able to do her task, she needs to “cut her hair, dress in man’s uniform” and to learn to use a weapon. During the time of the English occupation in France, there was little French resistance because of the absence of leadership and hope. But St. Joan of Arc convinced the dauphin to let her lead an army to fight with the English. She was granted with her request and “at the battle of Orleans,” the army led by Joan gained unexpected victory. After this, her success continued and her reputation was boosted. She was seen as a formidable leader and her opponents became afraid of her. Because of her accomplishments, St. Joan of Arc was given a “place of honor next to the king when Charles VII was crowned king of France.” Since that incident, her status was elevated to nobility. But as soon as her luck ran out, she was taken captive by Burgundians and “sold to the English,” then she was transferred to the hands of the “ecclesiastical court administered by a pro-English Bishop and was tried for witchcraft and heresy.” During this period, she was constantly criticized for her actions and beliefs which according to the church were against the Christian doctrines. After several months, she was sentenced to die by burning. Unfortunately, Charles VII whom she had helped to defend the French autonomy did not come to her defense to prevent her from being executed. Moreover, the redemption of St. Joan of Arc took 26 years. In 1456, she was found innocent from the charges that were thrown against her. Later on, she became a saint that the world knows today (Bois, 1999, “Joan of Arc”).
Meanwhile, Rosa Parks came from a humble beginning. She was a woman of an ordinary woman who initiated a dramatic change in her home state of Alabama. Throughout her lifetime, Parks played many roles as a relative, a professional and an American citizen. She “worked as a field hand, took care of her younger brother, and cleaned classrooms for tuition in her childhood, worked as a seamstress, office clerk, and domestic as an adult.” More so, she participated in civil rights movement wherein she functioned as the “secretary of the Montgomery, Alabama, NAACP chapter” (Lewis, 2008, “Rosa Parks). Aside from these, there was one memorable and powerful behavior that she did which shook the world. This was the bus incident wherein she refused to give up her seat to a white man. As a result, she was arrested. She questioned one police officer and said, “Why do you push us around?” and the officer replied with “I don’t know, but the law’s the law, and you’re under arrest.” After four days that have passed, Rosa was “convicted of disorderly conduct and fined $14.” The impact of here simple action pushed a certain black lad named Martin Luther King to form the “Montgomery Improvement Association” and initiate a bus boycott (CNN.com, 2005, “Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92”).
For the next 381 days, blacks — who according to Time magazine had comprised two- thirds of Montgomery bus riders — boycotted public transportation to protest Parks’ arrest and in turn the city’s Jim Crow segregation laws. Black people walked, rode taxis and used carpools in an effort that severely damaged the transit company’s finances. (CNN.com, 2005, “Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92”)
This act of defiance paved the way for the government to put an end to racial discrimination and apartheid to the Black community. On November 13, 1956, the “U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that Montgomery’s segregated bus service was unconstitutional.” Since the incident, Parks have been actively involved in movements that will empower the role of Blacks in the society. She even received several awards for her social efforts such as the “Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.” The accomplishments of Parks demonstrate that anybody can be a hero as long as conviction and dedication is present. Her monumental “act of disobedience in 1955” have been part of the history of the United States and it will be forever be celebrated by people who value freedom and equality (CNN.com, 2005, “Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92”).
Rosa Parks and St. Joan of Arc were two women who bravely fought against the conventions of the society. In Park’s case, she challenged the constitution of separating the blacks from the whites while St. Joan of Arc opposed the invasion of the English in France. Both cases showed their determination and desire to make a difference. More so, their motives were not driven by personal interest but by their concern for their community. Their altruistic causes made them unique individuals because not many people could act without expecting any rewards or compensations. More or less these two women possessed similar qualities as a person and as a “hero.” The only obvious difference between the two was their fate after dong their remarkable deeds. Parks was able to lead a life of constant social awareness and involvement. She was also highly recognized by the society. Meanwhile, St. Joan of Arc experienced a different destiny because she was killed by the same people whom she tried to save and her beliefs were taken against her. During her last moments as a captive, nobody even attempted to defend her and her honor.
As mentioned earlier, Rosa Parks and St. Joan of Arc were revered and considered as heroes. The concept of a hero has always been present and to be able to be branded as one, a generic scenario of an individual suffering from an ordeal and conquering it must be experienced. The ending can either be good or bad but that’s not the culmination of a hero’s life. The most important element that should be present is the capability of an individual and his/her actions to initiate life-altering changes for the betterment of the majority. Based on the backgrounds of Rosa Parks and St. Joan of Arc, there is not much difference between a modern-day hero and a classical hero. However, the time factor between the past and the modern showed only the difference in social conditions. In the medieval period, women were considered as the inferior gender and racism was not that of an issue because migration then was not that rampant while in the 1950’s, some women have started to gain a foothold in the society wherein they were slowly being accepted as equals of men but the prevalent problem then was racial segregation which discriminated minority groups in the US.
Moreover, after the heroes have accomplished their goals, the next thing that would amplify their status as heroes is if they can muster massive admiration from other people. Generating a great following will be a way for the heroes’ action to propagate. Rosa Parks and St. Joan of Arc both received immense amount of admiration and inspiration from people during their period and the succeeding generation. But St. Joan of Arc had been “mythologized” and glorified because her story have been an inspiration for people all over the world to protect and serve their countries. More so, her plight can be related to by almost all kinds of people. Many researchers and historical experts have written numerous books about her life because she epitomized the power and strength of a woman. Until now, she is being used as an example to inspire women and men also to emulate her actions. In order for Rosa Parks to receive same treatment as St. Joan of Arc, her story needs to spread beyond her known demographic which are the Blacks. Actually, Parks is gradually being “mythologized” and glorified by the contemporary society. In fact TIME magazine have acknowledged her as part of the 100 most important and remarkable people of the 20th century. Her influence in the Black movement will forever be remembered as long as her followers and supporters continue to celebrate her honor as a person and as an activist. Like here predecessor, St. Joan of Arc, Rosa Parks’ selflessness, bravery, enthusiasm, uniqueness and amazing womanhood made her an icon and a hero.
Bois, D. (1999). Joan of Arc. Retrieved July 11, 2008, from, http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/joanarc.html
CNN.com. (2005). Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92. Retrieved July 11, 2008, from, http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/10/25/parks.obit/index.html
Lewis, J.J. (2008). Rosa Parks. Retrieved July 11, 2008, from, http://womenshistory.about.com/od/parksrosa/p/rosa_parks.htm