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The Position of Woman in Primitive Society
A Study of the Matriarchy

written by "Hartley, C. Gasquoine (Catherine Gasquoine), 1867-1928"
...omen, not at all because of any higher standard of feminine moral virtue, but because of the peculiar advantages arising to themselves and to their children—advantages of freedom which could not exist in a society inspired by individual[257] inclination. And for this reason the clan system may be considered as a feminine creation, which had special relation to motherhood. Under this influence, the marital rights of the male members were restricted and confined. A system of taboos was established, which as time advanced was greatly strengthened by the sacred totem marks, and became of inexorable strictness. In this way association between the jealous fighting males was made possible. Here, then, are the reasons that led to the formation of the maternal family and the communal clan. It was a movement that had nothing about it that was exceptional; it was a perfectly natural arrangement—the practical outgrowth of the practical needs of primitive peoples. The strong and certain claim for the acceptance for the mother-age, with its privileged position for women, rests on this foundation. Let us be quite clear as to the real question involved, for it is a crucial one. I refer to the complete disturbance arising through this change in the family organisation in the relationships between the two sexes. A wife was no longer the husband’s property. Her position was unchanged by marriage, for her rights were safeguarded by her kindred, whose own interests could be protected only through her freedom. If we turn next to the status of men—of the husband and father—in the maternal kindred group, we find their power and influence at first gradually, and then rapidly, decreasing. It was under these conditions of family communism that the rights[258] of the husband and father were restricted on every side. Not only does he not stand out as a principal person from the background of the familial clan; he has no...

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