Patriarchy—the governance of the household and its members by the male paterfamilias (father of the family), and the social relations this arrangement entails—has empowered men in both private and public life and defined male gender identity throughout U.S. history. A male-governed household has often been perceived as a model of good public order. Patriarchy, while supporting social hierarchies and power relationships based on gender, has also served as a foundation for power systems based on race, ethnicity, and class, and thus created the impression that social hierarchies based on these categories are part of the natural order. Women, nonwhites, and other disempowered groups, however, have challenged patriarchal power.

Patriarchy in Early America

European colonists brought to America social systems in which the male-headed household was the ...

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