Gender Related Social Groups

While there are no extended lineages on Kalymnos, and kinship is reckoned bilaterally, there are a number of aspects of Kalymnian practices that show a strong matrifocal bias. Matrilocality is the standard postmarital residence pattern, with the husband moving into a house owned by the wife, often attached to the residence of her natal family. This house is usually built through the labor of fathers and brothers, on matrilineal land, though increasingly women themselves contribute to the building. The house traditionally reverts to the wife's family in cases where the wife dies without offspring. Houses and land are transmitted matrilineally as well, associating women with the symbolic capital of family tradition. Thus, women are the stable elements in Kalymnian kinship, and men are "exchanged" between groups of women.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature of Kalymnian practice is the tradition of first-daughter inheritance, or female primogeniture. Under this system, the first daughter received the lion's share of the matrilineal inheritance. If the family owned 25 fields, the first daughter would get 20 and subsequent daughters would receive one each. If the father owned a boat, or less commonly a store, he would pass this on to one of his sons. But in terms of items associated with the home, sons would not inherit at all under this system, except under unusual circumstances. Ideally, the first daughter would have a dowry house built for her from the family income. However, if this was not possible, the first daughter often claimed the parental house upon her marriage, and the rest of the family was forced to rent a house. This system was tied to baptismal naming practices by which the first daughter received the Christian name of her maternal grandmother, and was thus linked to the ancestral inheritance of that grandmother (see Sutton [1998a] for a full discussion).

This system can be documented at least back to the 17th century (Sutton, 1998a). It was officially ended when Kalymnos was incorporated into the Greek state in 1948, with its laws of equal inheritance. It is still reflected today in the favoritism shown to daughters over sons in inheritance, and to first daughters over subsequent daughters, but retains few of the vast inequalities of the past.

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