What does the word distaff mean?

Usage examples for distaff

  1. We delighted to see her at her wheel, she was so graceful, and the thread of her thought seemed to follow, so to speak, the fine and delicate thread of her work as it unwound itself under her touch from the distaff. – Louis Agassiz: His Life and Correspondence by Louis Agassiz
  2. As she spun, the shadow of Lydia's distaff grew longer and longer across the floor until at last the sunlight disappeared behind the wall, leaving the whole court in gray shadow. – The Spartan Twins by Lucy (Fitch) Perkins