Making Space: Women’s Agency within a Patriarchal Hegemony

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame
contact email: 

It is often said that well-behaved women seldom make history. Yet, simply because they are not the subject of multivolume biographies does not mean that “well-behaved” women did not have agency in their daily lives. This panel seeks to highlight the agentic force of the medieval women who did not subvert the patriarchal norms of their time. How did medieval women make use of patriarchal norms to their own advantage? Specifically, how did religious women, lay or monastic, live their own lives, create their own spaces, and make their own choices within the medieval patriarchal hegemony?

We encourage submissions which prioritize case studies of hitherto understudied women or women’s communities. While scholarship has deservedly noted the myriad ways in which figures such as Hildegard of Bingen or Eleanor of Aquitaine worked within patriarchal hierarchies, we seek to highlight those who have not yet received such attention. We recognize inherent biases of gender, social status, and education within many surviving medieval sources, and do not wish to limit topics for this session solely to sources written or used by women; rather, we also encourage papers on literary and historical sources which inform us about medieval women’s lives.

Submission is through the ICMS Confex site, and the submission deadline is September 15, 2023. For more information, email