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Nakano Takeko and Jeanne d'Arc: Women Warriors Who Defied Social Norms and Inspired a Nation

The pages of history are filled with brave and iconic individuals, who, despite overwhelming obstacles, made indelible marks on society. Two such figures—Nakano Takeko from Japan and Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) from France—demonstrate that courage and conviction are not bound by culture, time, or even gender. Both women defied social norms, assumed roles traditionally reserved for men, and played significant roles in their respective nations’ conflicts. While separated by geography and centuries, the stories of Nakano Takeko and Jeanne d'Arc bear uncanny parallels that offer a deep insight into the essence of heroism, the changing perceptions of women, and the universality of struggle.

Historical Context

Nakano Takeko

Born in Edo, Japan, in 1847, Nakano Takeko belonged to a family of the Aizu domain, known for their loyalty to the Tokugawa Shogunate. Her life unfolded against the backdrop of the Boshin War, a civil conflict between the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate and those who sought to restore the Emperor Meiji to power. The Aizu domain sided with the Shogunate, making them targets in the conflict.

Jeanne d'Arc

Born around 1412 in Domrémy, France, Jeanne d’Arc's life was defined by the Hundred Years' War between England and France. Jeanne, a simple farm girl, believed she had been chosen by God to liberate France from English rule and to have Charles VII crowned as King of France.

Parallels between the Two Women

1. Unlikely Warriors

Both women were unlikely warriors in male-dominated societies. Nakano Takeko trained in martial arts and swordsmanship, defying the expectations for women of her time. Jeanne d'Arc, despite having no military training, convinced Charles VII to grant her an army, again challenging the prescribed roles for women.

2. Inspiration to Fellow Soldiers

Their courage and prowess in battle were not just tokens; they actively inspired the men around them. Nakano led a corps of female warriors known as the “Joshitai” during the Battle of Aizu. Jeanne's mere presence on the battlefield served to boost the morale of the French troops.

3. Spiritual Motivations

While Nakano Takeko was motivated by her allegiance to her clan and the Shogun, Jeanne d’Arc believed her mission was divinely ordained. Both women exhibited a level of spiritual commitment that transcended mere loyalty to a cause.

4. Young Age

Both were relatively young when they joined the conflicts—Nakano was 21 and Jeanne was around 17. Their young age makes their bravery and tactical insights all the more extraordinary.

5. Tragic Endings

Both met tragic fates for their efforts. Nakano Takeko died in the Battle of Aizu, and her head was buried by her sister to prevent it from being taken as a trophy. Jeanne d’Arc was captured by the English and subsequently burned at the stake for heresy.


Nakano Takeko

Today, Nakano Takeko is remembered as a heroic figure in Japanese history, and an inspiration for young women. Her actions have transcended the limitations that society placed on her gender, making her a symbol of female empowerment in Japan.

Jeanne d'Arc

Jeanne d'Arc was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint and is a national hero in France. Schools, churches, and monuments across France bear her name, immortalizing her role in shaping the nation.


The lives of Nakano Takeko and Jeanne d'Arc show us that courage and determination can alter the course of history, irrespective of gender or societal norms. These women stood up against overwhelming forces, not just on the battlefield but also in the societies they were part of, and their stories continue to resonate, offering lessons on bravery, commitment, and the transformative power of individual action.

These parallels also reveal something more profound about the human condition: the universal capacity for heroism, for challenging the status quo, and for transforming the limitations of circumstance into the stepping stones of legend.

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