The Good Women of Peterhouse: Patriarchal Community, Femininity and University Reform

Veronica Carter


I argue that the beautiful, passive, idealized women the panels represent constitute a discursive response to the social and cultural anxieties raised by the emerging figure of the girl-under-graduate, who was widely understood to threaten the patriarchal structure of the academy. Comparing Chaucer’s poem to Burne-Jones’ design, I contend that both poet and artist defined ideal femininity as an expression of masculine mastery, and a ‘good woman’ as compliant to male authority in love and life.

Article published in Design History Journal | Volume 28 | Number 2 | 2015