Matriachy for fun and profit

Anyone know if there was ever a working matriachy in history? I remember something about the amazon women being fairly in charge, but no details.

I believe this is a somewhat controversial question.

I remember back when I used to read USENET in the 80s, there was a guy named “Robert Sheaffer” who was always trying to debunk what he felt was the myth of matriarchy.
The guy obviously has a bit of an agenda, but check out (Yes, that’s the name of the site)

Honestly, the arguments that there have been few or no matriarchies are pretty persuasive.

There was a small African kingdom that was well known to the Victorians.

IIRC the title would translate roughly as ‘she who must be obeyed’.

I also think that there is some vestige of that system left in a much reduced remainder of that tribe. good lord- i never realised some people were so threatened by feminism. They try and debunk wife beating. The site is approved for ‘manly use’. Im worried about what that means. good lord- i never realised some people were so threatened by feminism. They try and debunk wife beating. The site is approved for ‘manly use’. Im worried about what that means.”

OK, well, maybe he has more than “a bit” of an agenda. :slight_smile:
But there’s a lot of emotion surrounding the issue.
I suspect that the people who write on the other side of the issue, have an agenda too.

Uh…isn’t this a work of fiction? She by H. Rider Haggard.

There’s a very good book on this, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, by Cynthia Eller. Eller is an anthropologist and a feminist, but she concludes that the evidence for ancient matriarchal civilizations is spotty at best.

I’m not too familiar with them, but how about Tehuantepecs? I’m not familiar with their society, but the only thing that gets mentioned when someone writes about them is that they have a matriarchic social structure (which is great, but isn’t very elaborative…)

Uh, make that "…how about Tehuanas?"

If a region and a city can’t be a matriarchy, then maybe the people who live there could be.


The tribe does, or did exist.Methinks a search for some links is in order here.

So anything about the amazonians? Or am i remembering a childhood myth.

The Amazons/Amazonians were figments of the Ancient Greek’s imagination, not real people. Some explorer travelling up what we now call the Amazon River thought he saw women warriors on the bank, and called them Amazons. The name stuck for the river and the region, but no one else has ever seen women warriors in the area.

One of the problems with the question “Has there ever been a real matriarcy?” is that there’s no standard definition of matriarchy. Up until the early part of this century, for instance, there were villages in Norway where most of the men would be gone for months at a time, fishing or working on cargo ships. The women naturally took care of the farm and the family while their husbands and fathers were gone. Because the women knew more about the day-to-day running of the home and the farm, they made the decisions and controlled the money within their households. But the men owned the land for the most part, and men had the positions of power in society. Matriarchy, patriarchy, or a mix of the two?

The Ancient Greeks explored the Amazon? I’m impressed as hell!

A good book on the Greek myth of the Amazons is “Amazons” by Tyrell.

I learned about Schaeffer’s site by following up his UFO skeptic links (Schaeffer is the author of a number of very good books pointing out the errors of UFO enthusiasts). I don’t know why he wanted to call his site “patriarchy” – debunking myths of matriarchy doesn’t require you to go overboard the OTHER way. But he gathers together links to a number of books and places that make the case against matriarchal societies. I have to admit that I came upon Marija Gimbutas myself while researching “Medusa”, and I found her to be untrustworthy (She asserts as fact a LOT of her beliefs without a sprig of proof), long before I found that Schaeffer and others were similarly suspicious of her.

I’ll have to look into this more closely, but it seems to me I recall that the Iroquois were somewhat matriarchal.

Thinking back to those Sheaffer debates from the 80s, I believe that the definition of a matriarchy is a society where the majority of positions of leadership are occupied by women. Patriarchy is defined in a similar manner.

Note that there is some slop in this definition. For example, what are the positions of leadership in the United States? Senators? Judges? CEOs of major companies? 5-star generals? Reasonable people could differ over what qualifies as a position of leadership, but by any reasonable count, the modern day United States is a patriarchy under the above definition. (Although perhaps less patriarchical than many other times and places)

Another interesting thing to note is that many societies are matrilineal but not matriarchical. What this means is that, although men occupy the positions of leadership, property is inherited through women.

Further, I believe that a few polyandrous societies have been documented - more than one man shares the same wife, although I believe that polygyny is far more common.

Finally, although a lot of folks talk of “oppression,” I don’t know that it’s useful to define patriarchy or matriarchy in these terms. Certainly, Robert Sheaffer would point out that in many patriarchical societies, a significant portion of men suffer a great deal. You would be amazed at how long people can argue over who’s more oppressed :slight_smile:
ma·tri·ar·chy (mtr-ärk)
n., pl. ma·tri·ar·chies.

  1. A social system in which the mother is head of the family and descent is traced through the mother’s side of the family.
  2. A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by women. Also called matriarchate.

There are Native American tribes that exist today that are matriarchies according to definition #1. In fact, Wilma Mankiller is the chief of the Cherokees (or was at one time - I’m not sure if she still is).

The Choctaw women were considered head of household.

The children of the family belonged to the mother. Her brother was responsible for teaching her sons how to hunt. If the marriage dissolved, the children stayed with their mother. (Not in the site above, but I learned it when I was a girl. I of Choctaw and Cherokee descent.)

And, of course, substantially all American sit-coms since about 1986 have featured matriarchal families.