#1 What are the major female social networks?
#2 How has female social groups changed after contact?
#3 What are the male social groups?
A small group united by similarities.
Aboriginal women may have historically been able to pursue these types of activities, despite the constraints they imposed, by utilizing cooperative networks, either with cowives or between kin of different generations, particularly mothers and daughters. Episodes of female cooperation are commonly mentioned in the Australian literature, although details of how these networks functioned are often vague. In 1939, Kaberry, discussing the situation in the Kimberleys, found that co-wives were generally “on excellent terms,” and that women welcomed the additional help that came with a polygynous union (2003:154). Meggitt’s description of polygyny among the Walbiri of the Northern Territory emphasized the intergenerational transfers that occurred between co-wives, who often differed significantly in age (1962:112). The elder cowife was expected to help train the younger in matters of child care, foraging, food preparation, and relations with the opposite sex, while the younger co-wife took over many of the more tedious domestic jobs, such as collecting firewood and water. Devitt (1988) noted that when Central Desert women hunted they usually did so without children present, implying the presence of other caretakers in camp. She also emphasized the economic partnerships between older and younger women. Older women would hunt and share with younger women, who would more often take young children to pick fruit or dig geophytes. Others also have described generally friendly and helpful interactions between co-wives (
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