Joan of Arc, a remarkable woman, was born into rather unremarkable circumstances. Her peasant family lived in the small French village of Domremy between Champagne and Lorraine. Judging from the age she claimed to be at various parts of her life, she must have been born sometime around 1412, although the exact date is unknown. Her father was Jacques of Arc, and her mother was Isabelle Romee. Joan had three brothers: Jacquemin, Pierre and Jean. She also had a sister, Catherine, who died before Joan left on her mission to help the Dauphin in 1429. Joan's family, and most of Domremy, supported the Dauphin. However, they lived very near a pro-Burgundy area. Conflict between villagers from the two regions often erupted in violence, which Joan witnessed throughout her childhood.
As a peasant in the 15th century, Joan had no formal schooling and probably did not know how to read, although near her death she did know how to sign her name.
Whatever schooling Joan had she received from her mother, Isabelle. An extremely pious woman who may have even made a pilgrimage to Rome, Isabelle carefully taught Joan her prayers. Joan inherited her religious devotion from her mother, and throughout Domremy Joan was always known as an exceptionally pious and devout girl.
Tradition says that Joan worked as a shepherdess, tending her family's flock of sheep. Certainly she helped work the family lands, exhibiting a particular gusto for men's heavy labor, such as plowing. Her diligent work on the family farm made her strong, and many in Domremy were impressed with Joan's exceptional strength for a female. But while Joan was fond of the physical exertion of traditional men's work, she also spun thread and sewed just like any other 15th- century peasant girl, and was allegedly just...