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Mongolian Women


That women should command such authority in Mongolia is not surprising. Mongolians were nomads, and, moving from pasture to pasture, women's labor was crucial. It was they who packed up and moved the yurts or gers. They made their own clothes, rugs, flags, and covering for horses. They processed the milk, cheese and meat which formed the basic Mongolian diet. Usually each adult woman had her own herd of sheep to tend. As a result of women's ability to maintain the Mongolian subsistence economy, the entire male population was free to hunt or fight when the call came.

Women were fighters as well. Under Chinggis' rule, every man and woman was trained to keep the nation ready for battle. Mongolia women knew how to use a bow and arrow, were expert horsewomen, and even took part in wrestling contests. Marco Polo wrote of Khubilai's neice Khutulun. a princess who had amassed a great fortune by wrestling her prospective grooms. The loser had to gamble 100 horses on his vicotry. In no time Khutulun had earned 10,00 horses - and never did marry!

Mongolian women not only did not have to marry, but had the right to divorce if the marriage union did not go well.

Also, the tribal world of the Mongols was peopled with powerful clan shamans; Chinggis himself was devoted to shamanism. Women as well as men were shamans, and as visionaries and intermediaries between the forces of heaven and earth, were both venerated and feared.


Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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Women in World History Curriculum