Cherokee Women and the Matriarchal Society

Julia Grose
2 min readMar 16, 2018

In the Cherokee family structure, women took the major role. The Cherokee women also had many rights and were in control of the government and economy. When Europeans came to America they were surprised by these family roles and never fully understood this way of life. This woman-dominated type of social structure is called a matrilineal kinship system.

A matrilineal kinship system is when “a person is related only to people on his mother’s side. His relatives are those who can be traced through a woman” (Perdue). This means that the child is not related to the father. The most important male figure in a boy’s life would be his mother’s brother. When Cherokee men and women were married, they would live in the wife’s household with her family. “They worked collectively as a women’s council to address community concerns, they held leadership roles on Cherokee political councils, and they were experts in the arts of intertribal and international negotiation” (Moulder). Women were very powerful and worked together in the community.

Cherokee also lived with their extended family. The children and mother’s family members would have several buildings. There were different homes for summer and winter and they all belonged to the women in the family. During different times of year, women had various jobs to do. In the summer the women would do all of the farming while the men went to war. In the winter when the men hunted, the women would stay home to cared for the children and make pottery and clothing.

The Matriarchal society only started changing once the Europeans started to influence the Cherokee way of life. When missionaries entered certain parts of Appalachia, including Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina, they established schools and tried to assimilate Cherokee people into the European culture.

Women were very essential in the Cherokee way of life. I think that it is interesting we do not have many matriarchal societies today. This was very unique and different than the way many people have grown up in American and around the world. Cherokee culture and tradition recognizes the importance of women’s authority in the society.

Works Cited:

  • Perdue, Theda. Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700–1835. University of Nebraska Press, 1999.
  • Moulder, M. Amanda. “Cherokee Practice, Missionary Intentions: Literacy Learning among Early Nineteenth-Century Cherokee Women.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 63, no. 1, 2011, pp. 75–97. JSTOR, JSTOR,