“A free race cannot be born of slave mothers.” –Margaret Sanger
My thesis was written on the Central Asian nomads of the late Bronze and early Iron Age. Since these were mounted nomadic traders and raiders, the modern assumption has been that they were a strongly patriarchal society. One of the “startling” discoveries which I discussed in my thesis was the realization that a weapon in the grave goods did not automatically equate to it being a man in the grave. This “discovery” of warrior women, of course, was hotly contested for some time — “women don’t fight!” -until osteological testing revealed these were indeed women of power buried with weapons and rich grave goods.
“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived, and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and realistic.” –John F. Kennedy
Amusingly, this revelation is happening again. Now it’s the supposedly violent and patriarchal Vikings who’re being slowly revealed as both more egalitarian than we’d originally suspected, and having numerous women warriors:
[R]ecently, burials of female Norse immigrants have started to turn up in Eastern England. … there are more Norse female dress items than those worn by men,” says the study. So, the study looked at 14 Viking burials from the era…. The bones were sorted for telltale osteological signs of which gender they belonged to, rather than assuming that burial with a sword or knife denoted a male burial….
[S]ix of the 14 burials were of women, seven were men, and one was indeterminable. Warlike grave goods may have misled earlier researchers about the gender of Viking invaders, the study suggests. At a mass burial site called Repton Woods, “(d)espite the remains of three swords being recovered from the site, all three burials that could be sexed osteologically were thought to be female, including one with a sword and shield,” says the study.
Read the entire (sadly quite short) article here: Invasion of the Viking women unearthed (if that link is dead, try this text-only version). It is based on an article titled “Warriors and women: the sex ratio of Norse migrants to eastern England up to 900 AD,” written by Shane McLeod for the August 2011 edition of the Early Medieval Europe journal, volume 19, issue 3, pages 332-353. If you happen to get your hands on a copy of the article, I’d love to see it! :)
“In a controversy, the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth and have begun striving for ourselves.” –Thomas Carlyle
More to the point, I am absolutely thrilled to see yet more archaeological evidence finally being recognized for what it truly tells us: women as well as men have been and still are warriors, explorers and adventurers, and powerful leaders of their societies and religions. Women can do everything men can, and more. We have earned our every right to be both priestly women and presidents, respected matriarchs and wise elders.
“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” –Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
It’s time, I believe, for our modern societies to recognize this; to become truly egalitarian once more. If this interests you, and you’d like a working template, I suggest the following books on matrifocal societies which either accomplished or aimed toward this ideal:
- Women at the Center: Life in a Modern Matriarchy by Peggy Reeves Sanday
(wonderful description of the West Sumatran Minangkabou)
- Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines by Jeannine Davis-Kimball and Mona Behan
(the inspiring book which started me on the path of my thesis)
- Societies of Peace: Matriarchies Past, Present, and Future by Heidi Gottner-Abendroth
(amazing collection of information you’ll never find in a regular classroom)
- Leaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World by Yang Erche Namu & Christine Mathieu
(fascinating autobiography of life amongst the Chinese Mosuo)
“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.” –Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906)
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead