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Matriarchy

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Chambers 21st Century Dictionary


noun (matriarchies)
1. a social system in which women are the heads of families or tribes, and property and power passes from mother to daughter.
2. a society or community, etc controlled by women. Compare patriarchy.

[19c.]

matriarchy, familial and political rule by women. Many contemporary anthropologists reject the claims of J. J. Bachofen and Lewis Morgan that early societies were matriarchal, although some contemporary feminist theory has suggested that a primitive matriarchy did indeed exist at one time. Claims for the existence of matriarchy rest on three types of data: societies in which women make the major contribution to subsistence, societies in which descent is traced through women (i.e., matrilineal), and myths of ancient rule by women. But myths of ancient female dominance invariably highlight women's failure as rulers and end with men assuming power. Anthropologists believe that these myths function as a rationalization of contemporary male dominance. Women may have greater political power in matrilineal societies than in other societies, but this does not imply matriarchy. Thus, while Iroquois women cou...    Continue Reading
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