Joan's figure has been repeatedly exploited for political aims. She was adopted simultaneously by bitterly opposed factions in France; beginning with the Revolution, she served both anti-clerical republicans, who saw her as proto-revolutionary, and Catholic monarchists. In the hands of both parties she assumed a new importance, coming to symbolize the nation itself. The factions differed, though, in how that nation was conceived - and how it was to be governed.

In 1904 a furor broke out over a high school student's paper on Joan. Amadée Thalamas, a Jew teaching at the Lycée Condorcet, critiqued the essay for emphasizing Joan's religious merits, rather than her history. The Catholic press and the newly formed, ultra-nationalist Action Française burst out venomously, condemning the school system, the state, Jews, Protestants, and Freemasons. In response Thalamas published Jeanne d'Arc: L'Histoire et la Légend, in which he called on the "common sense and good faith" of the people of France, whom he compared to Joan. A further series of disturbances occurred four years later when Thalamas lectured at the Sorbonne; the Camelots du Roi (the student wing of the Action Française) rioted and repeatedly assaulted both Thalamas and other Jewish lecturers. Bryn Mawr's Alumnae Quarterly carried a first person account of the riots written by Elizabeth Seymour, a Bryn Mawr graduate.

 

 

Joan's role as a political symbol continues; she has recently been claimed by both the National Front Party and its opponents, each enthroning her as a symbol of the true France. The National Front, led by Jean Marie LePen, is an extremist, right wing organization which blames immigrants, Jews, and women working outside the home for France's problems. Its annual Paris May Day parade ends at Fremiet's statue in the Place des Pyramides, where LePen lays a wreath on the monument to Joan, whom he describes as his "favorite statesman." Meanwhile, opponents of LePen invoke Jeanne's name against him.

Political movements of all sorts have called on Joan, especially when the causes were feminist or led by women. Thomas Nast showed his sympathy for the temperance movement (left) by depicting the more violent activists in her guise. The women's suffrage movement consciously adopted Joan as a symbol of their struggle. She was especially appropriate for the militant wing of the movement - ready to fight, prepared for imprisonment, sacrificed for a higher goal - but the mainstream suffragists also made use of her. Mrs. Pankhurst was described in Searchlight Magazine in 1909 as "the modern Joan of Arc", and Inez Milholland, the famous "martyr" for the suffrage movement was pictured as a noble figure riding forth proudly with her banner.