2500 years ago, the women of Athens slaved at home, virtual prisoners of their husbands, expected to provide the cloth and clothing for their family. 4000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, there was a very different picture: respectable women were in business, weaving textiles at home to be sold abroad for gold and silver. Going back even further, 20,000 years ago women began making and wearing the first clothing created from spun fibres. Indeed, for over 20,000 years, until the Industrial Revolution, the arts of weaving belonged primarily to women and were the principal vehicle for demonstrating their various roles as mother, provider, worker, entrepreneur and artist.
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Elizabeth Wayland Barber is the author of Women’s Work and The Mummies of Ürümchi. Professor emerita of archaeology and linguistics at Occidental College, she lives in California.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Among the Batak the act of creation itself is viewed as women's special work, not only in production of babies, which grow where nothing has existed before, but also in creating cloth, which comes into being where nothing has existed before. Cloth and its making are thus taken as analogs for life and birth, in every sense.
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