Clan Mothers, Culture-Makers, Elders
Stone images of women are not
only common in the mound temples of southern Appalachia, in some areas
they are the primary representations. Unfortunately, massive looting
of burial sanctuaries has caused many of these ancestral images to disappear
into the private collections of settler families, and those in museums
have been severed from their historic context, sometimes lacking even
geographic identifiers. But historical accounts show that women in these
southeastern societies had considerable social power, in some cases
including women's councils with the power to veto declarations of war.
medieval painting of Vietnamese women drummers is inscribed with the
legend "Country of Women" in Chinese characters. We have it
on good authority that there were men in Vietnam, but the deeply patriarchal
thinking of the colonial rulers could not quite grasp the egalitarian
cultures that prevailed in many parts of the country. The highland regions
especially preserved matrilineal and/or matrilocal cultures, courtship
by women, and other female-positive customs.
The women of Minangkabau in western Sumatra walk with
a dignity that reflects a social system built around mother-right (adat
ibu, "mother tradition") and women's ceremonies. Land
is passed from mothers to daughters. Husbands come to live with their
wives' families (matrilocality) but retain ties with their own matrilineage.