Matrilineal societies are societies in which descent is traced through mothers rather than through fathers. In matrilineal societies, property is often passed from mothers to daughters and the custom of matrilocal residence may be practiced. Patrilineal descent is traced through fathers rather than through mothers. Matrilineage is sometimes associated with polyandry or group marriage where women have a variety of sexual partners and lines of male descent are uncertain.
In matrilineal societies, the descendants of men are their sister's children and not their own, who belong to their mother's matrilineage. Matrilineal societies existed in ancient times and matrilineal descent was recognised. Matrilineal descent is not the mirror image of patrilineal descent. Matrilineal societies differ from both patrilineal and bilateral societies in that the institution of marriage tends to be, relatively weak (Schneider and Gough 1961, Goode 1963).
In a gerontocratic matrilineal society, women's influence and prestige tended to increase with age and were usually expressed in informal settings, although there were offices of formalised informality such as "mothers" of matrilineages.
Matriliny required the subordination of marriage and conjugal duties to loyalty to and participation in the descent group. This, combined with economic activities, farming, artisan work, and trading, gave women considerable independence.
Women had prestige in the matrilineal home town, where black stools symbolised the "seat of power." (Bartle).
In a matrilineal society, women generally have a greater autonomy in terms of sexuality and reproduction than their counterparts in male dominated societies. The woman in a matrilineal society represents the clan and her children carry on the name of her clan.
Land Inheritance and
Schooling in Matrilineal Societies: Evidence from Sumatra - Agnes R. Quisumbing,
and Keijiro Otsuka
Matrilineal Society in
India - Dr. Madhumita Das.