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A matriarchy is a society in which females, especially mothers, have the central roles of political leadership and moral authority. It is also sometimes called a gynocratic or gynocentric society.
There are no known societies that are unambiguously matriarchal, although there are attested matrilinear, matrilocal, and avunculocal societies, especially among indigenous peoples of Asia and Africa, such as those of the Minangkabau, E De (Rhade), Mosuo, Berbers and Tuareg and, in Europe, Basques and Sardinian people.
Strongly matrilocal societies sometimes are referred to as matrifocal, and there is some debate concerning the terminological delineation between matrifocality and matriarchy. Even in patriarchical systems of male-preference primogeniture, there may occasionally be queens regnant, as in the case of Elizabeth I of England.
In 19th century Western scholarship, the hypothesis of matriarchy representing an early stage of human development—now mostly lost in prehistory, with the exception of some "primitive" societies—enjoyed popularity. The hypothesis survived into the 20th century and was notably advanced in the context of feminism and especially second wave feminism, but this hypothesis of matriarchy as having been an early stage of human development is mostly discredited today, most experts saying that it never existed.
- Steven Goldberg, The Inevitability of Patriarchy, (William Morrow & Company, 1973).
- Joan Bamberger,'The Myth of Matriarchy: Why Men Rule in Primitive Society', in M Rosaldo and L Lamphere, Women, Culture, and Society, (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1974), pp. 263-280.
- Donald E. Brown, Human Universals (Philadelphia: Temple University Press), 1991.
- Cynthia Eller, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future, (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001).
- Jonathan Marks, 'Essay 8: Primate Behavior', in The Un-Textbook of Biological Anthropology, (Unpublished, 2007), p. 11.
- Encyclopaedia Britannica describes this view as "consensus", listing matriarchy as a hypothetical social system. 'Matriarchy' Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007."
- Modern Matriarchal Studies Definitions, Scope and Topicality - Heide Goettner-Abendroth
- LA FAMIGLIA E LA DONNA IN SARDEGNA ANNOTAZIONI DI STUDIO 2005, vol. 71, no3, pp. 487-498 [12 page(s) (article)] (dissem.)
- Sardegna matriarcale (in italian)
- "The view of matriarchy as constituting a stage of cultural development now is generally discredited. Furthermore, the consensus among modern anthropologists and sociologists is that a strictly matriarchal society never existed." 'Matriarchy', Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.