A true Amazonia

Matriarchies are a thing of the past.


A photographer with a wonderful eye travelled to the remote Estonian islands of Kihru and Manja in the Baltic Sea, where she spent time with a community of women, who collectively kept things together while their men went to fish. All elderly, all strong, they inhabited a world that had remained the same for ages. The photographer is Anne Helene Gjelstad, and her book is Big Heart, Strong Hands (published by Dewi Lewis).

Vahtia Helju, 2008

This female stronghold is sometimes pestered by tourists, but Vahtia Helju does not mind posing with her favorite cow.

We all know that the Amazons of Rome were mythical, and the same could be said of the women who dominated Basque culture at one point, Celtic, various indigenous peoples — well, all over the world, actually. But if you’re so sure it’s all fantasy, go to Estonia.

Jarsumae Vive

Jarsumae Vive at the age of 81 decided to take up skydiving. At that age, men have often already died. Women persist, to conduct their lives as they always have. When they pass away, here in Estonia, they are grieved by their sisters, and carried out the door feet first.

Kolski Leiday, recently deceased

Do you have mothers or grandmothers who have gone on past the point when anyone thought they would? The difference here is community, the love that keeps them going. And a favorite dairy cow.

1 Comment

Filed under Jean Zimmerman

One response to “A true Amazonia

  1. cbrieant3@aol.com

    There is a book entitled, “When Women Ruled the World,” non-fiction, about a time in ancient Egypt when women occupied the throne as dynasties died out, mostly due to inbreeding.   Estonia sure took a beating in WW II.  These hardy souls must have been born during or after.   

    It is a long time since I took anthropology, but if I recall there were many matriarchal and matrilineal societies, and that some smaller ones still exist.  It is not who holds the title but who holds the reins.  When I was in law school starting in 1979, our class was 51% women.  I thought  then that by the time I was senior, women would be better represented in the higher levels of corporations and firms, and could build networks and decide who to give business to..  Being more wizened now, and perhaps wiser, I see that there are reasons why the advance has been slow.  

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