Re: What Matriarchy?

Larry Caldwell (
Thu, 01 Aug 1996 07:02:40 -0700

Speculation on prehistoric culture patterns is interesting, but it's
hard to be definitive. :)

It would seem more productive to discuss historic roles. Rhetoric to
the contrary, women generally enjoyed a wide range of freedom during
most of the historical period.

In article <4t3chb$>, (sgf) wrote:

> No. We *don't* know for sure that there was never a matriarchy. But we
> *do* know that so far we have never found one, and we know that
> modern-day and recently-past cultures that live and lived close to the
> same way that our hunting/gathering ancestors did all organize themselves
> along women gather/men hunt lines. In most h/g cultures, these are not
> hard-and-fast; i.e. a woman out gathering who sees an animal *and* is
> carrying the weapons necessary won't be stopped from killing it because
> it's "men's work" (although they usually come back and tell the men where
> they saw it, for next day's hunt), and a man out hunting who's not having
> much luck getting meat is likely to dig himself a few roots.

This is the normal social arrangement in any pioneer society. It's no
accident that western states were the first to grant equal rights to
women. They had already assumed that role in society, because there
was no margin for "civilized" airs.

The worst abuses of women came during the dark ages. The feudal idea
of chattel slavery oppressed all but a small fraction of the population,
and women didn't regain their ancient perogatives until this century.
In some parts of the world, specifically feudal Islam, they still haven't.

In contrast, Roman women had property rights and the right to divorce
their husband. Doric Greek inheritance was matrilineal. Women were
the literati of much of the ancient Near East.

At the moment women have more political power than ever before in
history, and probably pre-history too. You certainly can't call
modern society a matriarchate as a whole, though there are areas
where men don't have much influence.

-- Larry