Matriarchy describes a social system in which women have power and authority; this means that female contributions are not only valued but also that women make decisions that affect their individual lives, their families, the community, and the larger society. Single females or groups of women occupy leadership positions across the public and private spheres. A feminine perspective undergirds all social institutions, including the economy, education, politics, and religion. This entry begins by addressing some types of social systems described by the term matriarchy; it then discusses matriarchal and patriarchal societies, using the Cherokee and U.S. societies as examples, and offers two theories to explain the existence and understanding of matriarchy in these societies.

Social Systems

There have been many known matriarchal societies throughout the world ...

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