Teenagers have a spark of revolution in their hearts. It was obvious at the DCPS walkout in 2017, the March For Our Lives a few days ago, and we continue to see it through the activism of Wilson students on a daily basis. From social issues to war battles, it takes passion and courage for young people to fight. The equestrian statue of Jeanne d’Arc (or Joan of Arc) in Malcolm X park, also known as Meridian Hill park, epitomizes the power that teenagers have when it comes to making change.
Today, there are nine statues of Joan of Arc in the United States. Out of the mere 200 statues of female historical figures in the nation, nine is a significant amount. The statue in Malcolm X park was gifted to the women of the United States by the women of France. “[It was] a symbol of friendship and women’s rights,” says Faye Penn, Vice President of Editorial for Lifetime. Since the statue in Malcolm X park was installed in 1922, the sword Joan of Arc holds has continued to go missing, then found in the bushes beaten and bent.
On the afternoon of March 26, Lifetime, History, and the National Park Service hosted a ceremony, in honor of Women’s History Month, to unveil the restoration of the sword. The ceremony had a particular focus on women and teenagers throughout history; roughly half of the 50 people who attended were young adults. But why, you may ask, would the ceremony have such a prominent focus on teenagers?
Jeanne d’Arc (1412-1431), a French military hero, started simply as a farmer’s daughter. “She had zero military experience and only confidence on her side. She was, they said, just a girl,” said Penn. At age 13, she convinced the prince of France to let her lead a French army against Britain in the Hundred Years’ War; she ended up leading 4,0 00 troops to siege the city of Orléans. Jorc’s movement was scandalized–she was captured at age 19, and burned at the stake. Her legacy, however, was unable to be demolished.
“A lot of times people don’t realize what a big deal it is when they do stuff like [stealing Joan of Arc’s sword], they just think it’s funny,” says Kim Gilmore, historian for the The History Channel. When restoring the statue, the National Park Service used extra security precautions this time around to ensure that (hopefully!) the sword will stay proudly in Joan of Arc’s grasp forever.
The importance of this restoration goes further than making our city look pretty–teenagers need role models, and Joan of Arc is a perfect icon. Young adults have so much power, and this event wanted to highlight that power. All the students who attended got free American History textbooks from The History Channel, and a chance to talk to or interview park rangers, historians, and Lifetime and History Channel employees. In the end, it seemed that Joan of Arc was not all that different from Wilson students. She took initiative and fought for what she believed in, which is something we luckily have the power to do in order to instill change.