Patriarchy or rule by the fathers is as old as the Book of
Genesis. The Patriarchs of scripture were the heads of their
families. Many walked and talked directly with God. But as
anybody knows who has read the Book, that doesnâ€™t
mean the women held no power. It takes a strong couple to
start a family or a community, or populate a world.
While biology dictates that much of a womanâ€™s time and
attention be directed toward child rearing and home building,
she is not the only parent a child has or the only member of
the family who should care about the home.
Many seem to think that prior to World War II, women
pretty much had the home as their sphere while men worked
in the larger world, but they conveniently forget the multitude
of tasks facing both men and women merely to survive in pre-
When I was a child, I watched my Granny, my fatherâ€™s
mother, make soap and candles, can food and make her own
clothes. She also braided rugs and quilted covers for the
beds. But, beyond that, since her husband had died, leaving
her with two young children to support, she hand-set type for
the local newspaper, took in boarders, and cooked in the
school cafeteria in the winter and for the farmhands during
harvest. The Worthy Woman of Proverbs, who was skilled
both domestically and in business, was no abstraction to me.
I grew up knowing and loving her as my Granny.
My motherâ€™s parents owned a dry goods store where
they both worked long hours. My own mother was a more
traditional housewife than either of my grandmothers had
been, but even she divided her time between working at
home and running the Linotype and keeping books for my
father at his country newspaper.
My parents had two daughters, and we both worked at home
and at the shop. Given the choice, I generally chose the
newspaper, and my sister chose the house, but often, it wasnâ
€™t a matter of choice. The work had to get done.
My parents had a much more equal relationship than many
people today seem to assume of their generation, and we all
discussed politics, religion, education, and local affairs, often
with more heat than light, but always with spirit. The big
questions mattered, and all of us had opinions on them.
Neither of our parents tried to tell us what to think.
Daddy had the final word on disputes on family rules and
behavior (what we did as opposed to what we thought), but
Mother often did when it came to finances. Daddy wasnâ
€™t always prudent when it came to money, and I grew up
thinking that it was normal to have separate bank accounts in
All our married lives, Frank and I have had a single account.
First he managed it, then I did when he failed to keep good
records, and now he has for years, since I tend to be the one
who forgets to enter checks.
Both of us have worked outside the home, except for a brief
period when he was in the military, and both of us have
pitched in around the house, dividing the load depending on
who had the most available time and energy.
In my experience, patriarchy has been more prevalent in the
workplace than in the family. Most of my bosses have been
men; Frank has worked for more women than I have. I've
even been the boss a few times myself.
Most churches Iâ€™ve been a part of have had men serving
as preachers and elders but have encouraged participation
and even leadership by women as well. My book Trusting
Women includes the stories of women with varied
experiences in church life.
As I see it, most gender problems are the result of power. If
a person is determined to exert power over others--be that
person male or female--resentments and difficulties will
follow. Christianity teaches us that we are to serve, not seek
to be served. That we are to submit to one another and do
all in our power to live at peace with each other.
If that is the case, it wonâ€™t matter if we have rule by
fathers or mothers, for no one ultimately will rule.