Woman's Evolution: From Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family / Edition 1

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Evelyn Reed takes us on an expedition through prehistory from cannibalism to culture—and uncovers the world of the ancient matriarchy. Tracing the origins of the “incest taboo,” blood rites, marriage, and the family, she reveals women’s leading and still largely unknown contributions to the development of civilization. By pinpointing the relatively recent factors that led to pervasive discrimination against women as a sex, she offers fresh insights on the struggle against women’s oppression and for the liberation of humanity. Reed refutes the myth that “human nature” is to blame for the wars, greed, and inequalities of class-divided societies.

Glossary, bibliography, index. Now with enlarged type.

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Editorial Reviews

American Association for the Advancement of Science
This is a fascinating and scholarly book; useful in sociology and anthropology courses and to any woman needing encouragement about the contributions of her sex to history.
Canadian Newsletter of Research on Women
;A truly monumental piece of scholarship.… a total rethinking of evolutionary (social) anthropology.
Curriculum Advisory Services
Deftly takes on some of the most quoted experts in cultural anthropology and sociology and shatters their premises about women.… There is a real need for this book; its use would be most advantageous in elective courses related to the nature and rise of civilizations.… The volume is not only recommended, it cannot be ignored.
Kate Millet
"How important it is to women today that the myth of eternal and preordained patriarchy be exploded. And at last we have a good solid real woman anthropologist to do it."--(Kate Millet, author, Sexual Politics)
Minneapolis Tribune
[An] absorbing anthropological dig
Ms. Magazine
Helped me understand anthropology from a woman's point of view.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780873484220
  • Publisher: Pathfinder Press GA
  • Publication date: 3/1/1975
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 629
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.24 (h) x 1.14 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2003

    Why doesn't the war of the sexes ever end?

    Why is society so cruel? It seems to be self-defeating. Why doesn't the war of the sexes ever end? In no other species do the two sexes battle against each other. In this book we learn that things weren't always this way. In fact, for most of human history women were the heads of the extended family. Oppression and exploitation are recent inventions. So, the moral of this story is one of hope. The knowledge that female inferiority today is not biologically determined, that women were once the organizers and leaders of social life, should heighten the self-confidence of all who aspire for equality and justice. If humankind was capable of remaking itself once, and based on that has advanced dramatically in a limited sense of creating material culture, then we can remake ourselves again and found a culture that enriches all aspects of everyone's lives. But this time the redesign will have to be conscious and conscientious, the beginning of a humane human history in which all participate on an equal basis. Such is the future that socialism and communism promise for us. Anthropologists will have serious reservations on the second chapter of this book, which deals with cannibalism. Anthropologists and students of gender studies of all orientations now doubt the assertion that humanity had a cannibalistic stage in our past. Whether or not one accepts Reed's evidence on this score, the rest of the argument remains solid: the overwhelming part of human history is herstory. As a companion to this volume, be sure to read Origin of Family, State and Private Property, by Engels. Written a century earlier, it put forward the theory of our matriarchal heritage. Women's Evolution compiled anthropology's evidence that many still do not care to publish even some thirty years later.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2002

    When women ruled

    One of the most common arguments used against progressive and revolutionary social movements is that 'you can't change human nature.' This is particularly the case when the subject of male and female roles comes up. Men are supposedly bound by their genetic makeup to be the stronger, dominant sex. Women are allegedly destined by biology to be the weaker sex. If you are looking for evidence against this argument, look no further. Evelyn Reed, who was a feminist, socialist and anthropologist, provides a mountain of evidence about early human societies, which shows that, without a doubt, women have not always been subordinate to men. In painstaking, shocking and sometimes even humorous detail, she reconstructs the prehistoric matriarchal societies that spanned the globe thousands of years ago. She draws on myths, anthropological studies of modern-day 'primitive' peoples, and even Greek dramas to show that it took a long and bloody period of evolution for the 'father-family' to develop and for women to become subordinated to men. I particularly like her chapter on women's 'productive record,' which shows that women, because of their cooperative social organization, invented human civilization, including farming, industry and even the use of fire.

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