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Role of Women in Early American civilizations

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 10 months ago

Week 12: Early Americans IDs


Role of Women in Early American civilizations


Incan Women

Incan women were allowed much more autonomy than in many other societies in this era, though many of the social doctrines were still unequal. The life of a female essentially began at 5 years old when a name was chosen for them as well as a godfather. After this age the girl will begin to help her mother around the house, learning for her future. Once the girl reached puberty she was given women’s clothes and declared a woman. The woman may have then gone to a special school to hone her domestic skills and study the theology of the Inca. This school was known as the “house of the chosen”. A female may have followed one of two paths upon maturation. She could have become a Virgin of the Sun, which was a servant at a temple, or she could marry. Females typically married around the ages of 18 to 22 and marriages were typically based on social class. One could not expect to marry above one’s station. Marriages were seen as economic agreements and trial marriages were practiced. This means that the partners may test out the marriage for a period of time, and upon conclusion of that time, may decide whether to bolt or stay in the marriage. The only divorces allowed after this time were of childless women. Once married, a woman was expected to care for the children, gather food, cook, tend to the animals, go to the market, and weave. Weaving was an important aspect of Incan economy, and at one point women were required to weave cloth for the court and religious purposes. Despite the patriarchal placement of females in society, they were highly revered, as spoken in Inca religion. Cooperation between gods and goddesses honored the importance of females.

Aztec Women

In Aztec society there were two types of women; some were free and others were slaves. The Aztec women, who were privileged to be free, assumed many roles. As in the Inca society, the married common woman raised the children, tended the household, and wove cloth. However a woman may also have held a profession. In Mesoamerica, women may have been merchants, vendors, midwives, curers, secretaries, or courtesans. Women could also inherit property and pass it on, a right denied in many places throughout the world today. Nevertheless, despite the revolutionary independence given to Aztec women, a supremacy complex was still deeply imbedded within the male psyche.

Enslaved Aztec women performed the household tasks so that the woman of the house was free from mundane labor. The enslaved women became artisans in weaving and continued to make cloth through the colonial period, in which the Spanish built textile mills. Artifacts have shown that these slave women adapted their weaving and cooking styles to meet the demand of the large population who lived neat the Aztec capital. Female slaves were used as concubines and bore children who became slaves.


Mayan Women

Mayan women played an important role in their society. They were allowed to be a part of the economy, government, and farming activities. In the Mayan civilization there were a few matrilineal societies. While the men hunted deer in the woods, the women spent time raising deer so that the Mayas would have a constant supply of food. All Mayan women were involved in textiles, but their class directly related to what types of cloth they could make. Noble women used varying dyes in their textiles and used higher quality fibers. Commoners could only weave basic cloths due to their lack of resources. The tapestries they created were beautiful works of art, and were highly valued. The women in the Mayan civilization were involved in tasks that shared an equal playing field with the tasks of the men. After the men brought home the food it was the women who prepared it making it edible for their families. Women were often associated with rituals and the Moon goddess, Ix Chel. They were also associated with every male god's duality, has a male side and a female side. Overall, the women in the Mayan civilization were respected by their male counterparts. By no means were they considered equal, but they did take their place in a supportive role.

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