In the M’gillah, the king decrees at the end of Chapter 1 that each man must be the ruler of his house: no wife may be a Vashti and defy his diktat. (The same idea comes in the song, “Master of the House”, in “Les Miserables”).
True, there was a time when homes were ruled by Dad the Dictator, but though Judaism certainly believes that a family needs a leader and places certain religious roles in the hands of the husband, the famous Chapter 31 of Proverbs (Eshet Chayil, “The Capable Woman”) is closer to the Jewish way of thinking with its sense of partnership.
The Baal HaBayit (see Ex. 22:7; Judges 19:22) is certainly the Jewish hero, a good citizen who is good for his community. Even God is called the Baal HaBayit of the world (end of Chapter 2 of Avot). But there is an equivalent term for a woman – a Baleboste – and it is she who is the Jewish heroine.
The ethos and ethic of the family are her charge. Marriage, the home and family are central in Jewish life, but there is no reason why a woman cannot be a Baleboste even if she has no husband or children. The ideal is that the woman is neither an appendage of the man nor his rival, but a partner who works with him to create a sound society.
Today’s world also sees growing opportunities for women’s spirituality – and it’s all to the good.