Breaking Through the Stained Glass Barrier: The Voices of Etheldreda, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch
Scripps College (2004)
Saint Etheldreda, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and Saint Margaret of Antioch seem frozen and silenced in their stained glass images; however, the stories of strong women, whether fantastical or real, spoke to women in the medieval ages and still speak to women today, inspiring courage and exemplifying the possibility of defying patriarchal oppression. I use the term patriarchy somewhat tentatively, as it signifies such a broad range of concepts. By patriarchy, I especially mean the social and institutional underestimation of women’s capacities, particularly of the female intellect, an underestimation that persists today. Just as medieval women could turn to Saint Catherine for an example of the power of female education, women today can also locate in her a role model.
While it’s true that generally men recorded the lives of the saints and probably men created the stained glass windows, the women subjects, within their legends and in the windows, still have voices. Laurie Finke expands Bakhtinian theory to create a useful feminist dialogic.