Egalitarianism in the North American Northeast: was Re: Norse sailings to Vinland/Markland

Mary Beth Williams (
20 Sep 1996 18:53:49 GMT

In <51n0ug$>
(Robert Sheaffer) writes:
>In article <516gtq$>,
>Mary Beth Williams <> wrote:
>>The peoples of Eastern Canada and Maine are matrilineal and
>>meaning that the status of women was much more elevated than it would
>>have been among women from patriarchal societies such as the Norse.
>Let's be careful with terminology here: a number of societies are
>matrilineal and/or matrilocal. However, there is no society that is
>not patriarchal; i.e., male dominance and a predominance of male
>leadership is a human universal. Despite many claims of
>societies from feminists, there is not one such claim
>that stands up to critical scrutiny. For a detailed
>examination of claims of alleged
>"nonpatriarchal" societies, see _Why Men Rule_ by Steven Goldberg.
>Other scholars have noted the lack of correlation between the
>status of women and whether the society is matrilineal, matrilocal,
>both, or none.
>Also, I would dispute that women among the native peoples of Eastern
>Canada enjoyed an "elevated" status. The late feminist/Marxist
>anthropologist Eleanor Leacock made exactly such a claim, which I
>investigated and found to be based upon selective quotations and
>deliberate omission of contradictory evidence. See my expose of the
>deceptions concerning her supposed 'native American
>gender-equal society' on my web page
>at .
>Perhaps you were unaware that Leacock's depiction of the
>supposedly elevated status of women in these societies was
>an ideologically-inspired fabrication.
>>MB Williams (Kennebec/Penobscot (Wabanaki))
>>Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst

Mr. Shaeffer,

Have you read anything regarding gender in anthropology since Leacock
wrote in the 1970's? (if I recall correctly, her article first appeared
in _Toward an Anthropology of Women_, and was supporting the idea that
patriarchy has not always been, as you claim, a human universal, but,
was intimately linked to the development of private property.) Its all
nice and good that you place your *expose* of Leacock on your web
page... How about putting it in a peer-reviewed journal like the
hundreds of gender anthropologists/archaeologists have been doing now
since Leacock and others pioneered the field twenty years ago? (Oh,
yeah, and I have submitted successfully to the peer-review media on the
subject of egalatarianism in Northeastern pre-Columbian cultures, e.g.
see Williams and Bendremer, *An archaeology of maize, pots and
seashells: Gender dynamics in Late Woodland and Contact Period New
England*, in Claassen and Joyce, eds., _Women in Ancient America_,
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.)

There is a substantial gender bibliography located on the University of
Kentucky web site... I recommend you take a look at it to get up to
speed on the research in the field, research that deserves more than a
blanket refutation, particularly since many of the scholars, i.e.,
Conkey, Watson, Claassen, Hasdorf, etc., etc., are easily included in
the elite of the anthropological field.

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst

PS, I will not be following this thread with any consistancy due to the
recent birth of my daughter, so any responses will have to be taken up
by others. Hence, I am x-posting this to sci.anthro., where a similar
discussion has been taking place.