Genghis Khan as the first feminist patriarch.
Weatherford (Anthropology/Macalester Coll.; Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, 2004, etc.) asserts that the founder of the Mongol Empire learned from harsh experience not to trust the men within the warring steppe clans, and eventually left his extended empire in the hands of his more capable daughters. Their husbands and in-laws, in turn, savagely wrested power from the women, excised their existence from official accounts and left the empire in alarming decline over centuries—until the reign of the last great Mongol queen Manduhai the Wise, who restored Mongol power in the 15th century and drove back the incursions by the Chinese. In the first part of the book, Weatherford traces the life of Genghis Khan and his relationship with his children, probably four sons and seven or eight daughters, as later recorded in The Secret History of the Mongols in the 13th century. This document sets forth the patriarch’s intentions for his family and nation, but it is curiously missing the part of the text that completes this intriguing sentence: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Weatherford argues that Genghis maintained a staunch adherence to a male-female sharing of power. Girls were raised to ride and shoot like boys, and they were expected to rule a territory as rigorously as they ruled the home. As part of his strategy to tighten his hold along the Silk Route, Genghis married his daughters to leaders in recently vanquished foreign lands to rule in his stead. Weatherford amply demonstrates how subsequent male relations waged a backlash against these women rulers until the remarkable rise of Manduhai and her ability to reunite the squabbling Mongol tribes.
Uplifting, entertaining history.