General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Sep 2017/11 Vulture
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Article suitable for Top Juniors and above

Professor Camilla Townsend

Question for June 2014

What was the highest position a woman could reach? Asked by Woodville Primary School. Chosen and answered by Professor Camilla Townsend.

Detail from the first folio of the Codex Boturini (hand drawn copy), showing the priestess Chimalma(n) (bottom left): one of the four priest-guides of the Aztec tribe, leaving Aztlán, was a woman
Detail from the first folio of the Codex Boturini (hand drawn copy), showing the priestess Chimalma(n) (bottom left): one of the four priest-guides of the Aztec tribe, leaving Aztlán, was a woman (Click on image to enlarge)

This is a hard question to answer. Women in Aztec culture almost never became political leaders themselves. But if a woman was born into a leading noble family, she might confer power on the man she married. Women also became priestesses, and some rose to govern all religious ceremonies in which the women of their community participated. Other women became renowned midwives and healers. So although no woman would ever have wielded power in the same way as Moctezuma (also called Montezuma), women did nevertheless attain high positions.

Picture from the Mexicolore archives.

Professor Camilla Townsend has answered 5 questions altogether:

Is it true a boy was punished by being held over burning chiles but a girl was just threatened with this?

Would a son inherit the family house from his father when he grew up?

When they got married, were they arranged marriages?

What was the highest position a woman could reach?

Why did the Aztecs sacrifice the men and not the women?

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