Full Text


J. I. (Hans) Bakker


The term matriarchy has a commonsense meaning today. It refers to a situation where a female becomes an important figure in a nuclear or extended household. Thus, for example, Rose Kennedy was a matriarch of the Kennedy clan. That current meaning has deep roots. At one time many thinkers believed that women had always been secondary to men. Early ideas concerning what Carl Linnaeus called “ homo sapiens ” (wise man) were biased in favor of “men's history.” It was not clear to social scientists until the early twentieth century that male and female gender roles are social constructs and that biology is not always destiny. Comparative data on anthropologically indigenous, non-industrial societies makes it clear that the division of tasks in the household can be quite varied, with men often doing household tasks. Moreover, many cultures recognize a “third gender” in which biological men are treated in every outward respect as women. Such micro-level phenomena in relatively less technological communities are only one part of the picture. Another aspect of matriarchy is the notion that some societies have been politically dominated by women. This is sometimes called Amazonism, based on the mythical Greek “reverse gender” accounts of Scythian or independent female warriors. Bachhofen, a Swiss amateur classicist and judge, argued on the basis of the iconography of Roman tombs that the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

Log In

You are not currently logged-in to Blackwell Reference Online

If your institution has a subscription, you can log in here:


     Forgotten your password?

Find out how to subscribe.

Your library does not have access to this title. Please contact your librarian to arrange access.

[ access key 0 : accessibility information including access key list ] [ access key 1 : home page ] [ access key 2 : skip navigation ] [ access key 6 : help ] [ access key 9 : contact us ] [ access key 0 : accessibility statement ]

Blackwell Publishing Home Page

Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology Online ® is a Blackwell Publishing Inc. registered trademark
Technology partner: Semantico Ltd.

Blackwell Publishing and its licensors hold the copyright in all material held in Blackwell Reference Online. No material may be resold or published elsewhere without Blackwell Publishing's written consent, save as authorised by a licence with Blackwell Publishing or to the extent required by the applicable law.

Back to Top