Women are not the only powerless characters in the book, but the society seems quite patriarchal.
Uncle Axel tells David about a land in the north-east where “the women are very tall and strong.”
They rule the country entirely, and do all the work. They keep their men in cages until they are about twenty-four years old, and then eat them. They also eat shipwrecked sailors. (ch 6)
Of course this is just a story, and Uncle Axel admits it’s unconfirmed. Still, it demonstrates the culture’s value of women, because they fear strong ones.
Another example of the subordination of women is in Aunt Harriet. She had a baby that had some little defect. She did not want to declare the baby defective and lose it. David’s father bemoaned that “women sometimes get strange ideas at such times” and sent her away to pray for the sin of not wanting to report the baby, but instead trying to hide its defect (ch 7).
Babies are taken from their mothers, and presumably killed, when they have defects. This was Harriet’s third baby that wasn’t perfect.
Women who do not produce perfect children are also at risk. Aunt Harriet comments that her husband is not likely to want to keep her since she has produced three children who were taken.
'This is the third time. They'll take my baby away again like they took the others. I can't stand that -- not again. Henry will turn me out, I think. He'll find another wife, who can give him proper children. (ch 7)
David’s mother calls the child a monster, but after Harriet leaves she seems to have misgivings about the thought of Harriet having to give up the baby. She defers to her husband, who tells her that “Purity of heart and conduct” has a “particular importance to women” (ch 7). Aunt Harriet kills herself, and the baby is nowhere to be found.
Clearly in this society women are held down by men. A woman who does not produce perfect children is cast off by her husband. Children are taken from mothers.
A similar lack of power is portrayed in Rosalind's situation on the Fringes, when David, Rosalind, and Petra escape. Davd's uncle Spider wants her, because she can give him babies.
In the book it is mentioned that the women followed what the men said. Sophie has also said that she liked the spider man(Gordon) even though he said that she is a breeder because she was the only fertile women. In the city/town women were considered breeders.