Re: What Matriarchy? (was Drugs etc.)

Mary Beth Williams (
22 Jul 1996 18:54:09 GMT

In <> writes:
>Lowell Morrison wrote:
>>>I did check the dictionary. I've also tried to understand how the
>>>came to be used for matrilineal. I think it comes from some mistaken
>>>concept that in a matrilineal group, the woman would rule the
>> The question is what dictionary did you check, My OED or the
>> of Anthropological Terms does not list matrilineal as a possible
>> definition...
>> Using the Wrong References can be quite a source of confusion...
>I€ve been reading on some of the modern feminist and anthropological
>works on matriarchy and they seem to be based on the earlier theories
>proposed by Lewis Morgan and some of his contemporaries.
>While these books spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on
>mythologies regarding matriarchates, they provide only two identifying
>factors for their proposed historic matriarchies.
>1) Societies where women are the major contributors to subsistence.
>2) Societies where matrilineal decent is used.
>As I pointed out earlier, the major adaptive value of matrilineal
>is in societies where female solidarity is more important than male
>solidarity. In a society where women are the major contributors to
>subsistence, female solidarity will usually be based on subsistence.
>Thus, both identifying factors are intimately related. The matriarchy
>which is being established in these books then is that of matriarchy
>(matrilineal) rather than matriarchy (matriarchate).
>These books are, as far as I can tell, the most recent works regarding
>human matriarchies.
>€The Mothers€, R.Briffault (1959)
>€Mothers and Amazons: The First Feminine History of Culture€,
>B.Eckstein-Diener (1965)

I do think that you've moved in the right direction by looking how
power, residence and subsistence can all be engendered, and I would
recommend a few other sources, most which are archaeological, using
modern gender/feminist theory in regards to interpreting the
archaeological record. Primary among these sources is:

Conkey and Gero, _Engendering Archaeology_, Basil Blackwell (1990 (I

A tremendous amount of work has been done in the exploding field of the
archaeology of gender, and an on-line bibliography has been compiled by
a member of Arch-L...If you're interested, I can dig up the URL. In
addition, the 4th Gender in Archaeology Conference will be held at
Michigan this Sept.

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst